Last week, Apple became the first U.S.-based corporation to see its market value top $1 trillion. But is it really an American company?
"Apple imports chips, antennae and sensors from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Europe into China where Foxconn (a Taiwanese firm) and others assemble them into iPhones," the Washington Post reported in March.
"About half of all iPhones now are made in a huge manufacturing facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou," The New York Times reported in 2016.
So, the richest of all corporations makes its signature product in a country the State Department describes as "an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the paramount authority."
China, home to Apple's iPhone assembly lines, is tyrannical in its approach to personal communications.
"China was the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for the third year in a row," Freedom House declared in its 2017 annual report on internet freedom.
"Dissidents and members of ethnic or religious minority groups received the heaviest penalties for online speech, but ordinary internet users also felt the impact of the increasingly repressive regime," said the report.
Want to start a Facebook page? Run a Google search? Forget it -- if you reside in the People's Republic.
"Several social media and messaging apps are totally blocked, isolating the Chinese public from global networks," said Freedom House. "These include YouTube, Google, Facebook, Flickr, SoundCloud, and WordPress."
But Apple CEO Tim Cook sees the sunny side of the Chinese regime.
In December, Cook attended the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China -- an annual event sponsored by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the government's internet-control agency.
In its latest report on human rights in China, the State Department said the CAC "closely regulated online news media" in that country.
"The CAC finalized regulations on Internet News Information Services that require websites, mobile apps, forums, blogs, instant communications services, and search engines to ensure that news coverage of a political, economic, diplomatic, or commentary nature conforms to official views of 'facts,'" said the State Department. "These regulations extended longstanding traditional media controls to new media -- including online and social media -- to ensure these sources also adhere to the Communist Party directive."
After he spoke at the CAC's conference, Cook attended the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, China. There, Fortune Executive Editor Adam Lashinsky interviewed him on stage.
Cook said one of the reasons Apple does so much of its manufacturing in China is because China has more appropriately skilled engineers than the United States.
"You know," said Cook, "in the U.S. you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I'm not sure we could fill the room. In China, you could fill multiple football fields. It's that vocational -- vocational expertise is very deep -- very, very deep here."
In Cook's view, this results from the excellence of China's educational system.
"I give the education system a lot of credit for continuing to push on that even when others were de-emphasizing vocational," said Cook in Guangzhou. "Now I think many countries in the world have woke up and said, you know, this is a key thing and we've got to correct that. But China called that right from the beginning."
Cook also applauded China for what he sees is as its wonderful success in building popular wealth.
"China has done an unbelievable job of lifting people out of poverty," he said. "They have done an incredible job -- I mean, far beyond what any country has done. We were talking about ... mid-'90s to today: The biggest change is the number of people that have been pulled out of poverty, by far, and we should all applaud that."
Cook also applauded China for its dedication to ending climate change -- which "aligns completely with Apples' values."
"They are very fixated on doing the right things to avert climate change," he said. "And this is something that means a lot to us as well."
"And so, from my American mindset, I believe strongly in freedoms," Cook said that December day in China. "They're at the core of what an American is. And I have no confusion on that. And I think that anybody who knows me knows how I view those things. Uh, but, I also know that each country in the world decides their laws and their regulations. And ... so, your choice is: Do you participate, or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be? And my own view very strongly is you show up and you participate, you get in the arena, because nothing ever changes from the sideline."
The U.S. merchandise trade deficit with China hit a record $185,721,300,000 in the first six months of this year.
In 2017, according to the Census Bureau, the top four imports the United States bought from China were cellphones and other household goods ($70,359,818,000), computers ($45,515,206,000), telecommunications equipment ($33,490,521,000) and computer accessories ($31,648,577,000).
Cook's Apple decided it wanted to participate in China's manufacturing labor market more than in America's.
It should at least express the same respect for our laws as it has for the People's Republic of China's -- if a freely elected government here decides to impose tariffs on the Chinese-made products it tries to bring across our border.