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‘I Believe Strongly in Freedoms.’ Tim Cook Responds to Criticism Over China’s Internet Censorship

December 6, 2017, 8:45 AM UTC

Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook had some words for those who criticized his keynote speech at China’s World Internet Conference Sunday.

“I never base my actions on how people will feel about it or whether I’d take any criticism,” he said, while speaking at the Fortune Global Forum Conference in Guangzhou, China, on Wednesday. “If I did, I’d never do anything.”

Cook gave the Sunday speech at the opening ceremony of a conference designed to promote China’s vision of the Internet—one that is more closed and censored, Bloomberg reports.

“The theme of this conference—developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits—is a vision we at Apple share,” Cook said at the time. “We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace.”

The Apple CEO was criticized for appearing to endorse the Chinese government’s Internet policy, which tightly controls the flow of information in the communist nation.

Speaking at the Fortune Global Forum, Cook said that what is missing from society is that there aren’t enough people willing to listen, understand, and participate. “I’ll get criticized for going to any meeting,” he added. “I get criticized for going to meetings in the United States—and I don’t really care at the end of the day.”

So how did he react when the Chinese government decided to pull apps from the App Store? When companies choose to enter a new country and participate in the market, Cook said, they are subject to the laws and regulations of that country.

“From my American mindset, I believe strongly in freedoms. They are at the core of what being an American is, and I have no confusion on that,” he said. “But I also know that every country in the world decides their laws and regulations.”

Companies are left with a choice to either participate or stay on the sidelines, he said. Alluding to President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote about “The Man in the Arena,” Cook said he chose to “get in the arena because nothing ever changes from the sidelines.”

“My hope over time is that some of the [apps] that have been pulled come back,” he said. “I have great hope on that and great optimism on that.”