China has taken a significant step by prohibiting central government officials from using iPhones at work, as part of its efforts to curtail foreign influence amid deteriorating relations with the U.S.
This move, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, could dent Apple’s image in its second-largest market. China is also urging government employees not to bring devices from foreign manufacturers into the workplace.
China’s motivation behind this decision is primarily to enhance national security and reduce reliance on foreign technology. The government has advised some officials to cease using iPhones during discussions and meetings, although it’s unclear if a widespread internal directive has been issued.
China and the U.S. have been engaged in a reciprocal effort to reduce their technological interdependence. The U.S. has previously taken steps against Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE, while several government agencies have banned the use of TikTok on work devices. In March, TikTok’s CEO was asked to testify before Congress to address data security concerns related to China.
In 2021, some Chinese government agencies prohibited Tesla vehicles from their premises, prompting the electric car manufacturer to reassure users about its compliance with cybersecurity regulations and data storage. Additionally, there has been a nationwide push to replace foreign computer software with domestic alternatives in government agencies and state-owned enterprises.
Apple heavily relies on Greater China for both manufacturing and sales, contributing nearly 19% of its revenue in the third quarter of 2023. Despite this, Apple has faced challenges in its relationship with China due to censorship issues surrounding the App Store. The company has often had to navigate between Western principles of free expression and Beijing’s censorship demands.
For instance, Apple faced criticism when it limited AirDrop usage under “Everyone” settings to just 10 minutes in China. While this change was eventually extended worldwide, it raised concerns that Apple was bowing to pressure from Beijing, as the feature had been used by Chinese protesters to circumvent censorship.
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