./uploads/advanced-cache.php China Bans Government Officials from Using Apple iPhones Amidst Escalating Tech Cold War

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China Bans Government Officials from Using Apple iPhones Amidst Escalating Tech Cold War

Tensions rise between China and Apple as government employees are advised against bringing foreign-manufactured devices to work, impacting Apple's vital Chinese market

China

In a significant move that could strain relations further between China and the U.S., China has reportedly instructed central government officials to stop using iPhones while at work. This development was initially brought to light by the Wall Street Journal, and it appears to be a part of China’s broader strategy to limit foreign influence, particularly from the United States. The report suggests that government employees are also being advised against bringing any devices from foreign manufacturers into their workplaces. Although it’s not entirely clear if a comprehensive internal directive has been issued, the rationale behind this decision is said to be to bolster national security and minimize dependence on external technologies.

This isn’t a one-way street; both China and the U.S. have been playing a high-stakes game of reducing their technological interdependence. Over the past few years, the U.S. has taken measures against Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE by banning them. Government agencies have even gone so far as to ban employees from using TikTok on work-related devices. In March, TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, was called before Congress to discuss concerns about data sharing with the Chinese government.

China has reciprocated with similar moves. Last year, some Chinese government agencies restricted Tesla vehicles from entering their premises, citing national security concerns. This led Tesla to issue a statement assuring that its “sentry mode,” an anti-theft feature, was in compliance with China’s cybersecurity laws and that it stored data locally. There has also been a concerted effort to replace foreign computer software used by government agencies and state-owned enterprises with local alternatives, sparking a mini-boom in the country’s Software as a Service (SaaS) sector.

The new restrictions could prove to be a thorny issue for Apple, as China is its second-largest market. According to Apple’s third-quarter report for 2023, nearly 19% of the company’s total revenue for the three months ending in July came from Greater China, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. An investor note from UBS highlighted that Apple shipped 3.1 million units in China in July alone, a slight year-on-year dip of 2%. The note also revealed that China accounted for about 23% of all iPhone sales units over the past year.

Apple’s relationship with China has always been a balancing act. While Apple finds itself ensnared in a political web, grappling with demands for freedom of expression from Western governments and censorship requirements from Beijing, its most recent obstacle was the restriction on the AirDrop feature. Last year, Apple restricted the AirDrop usage to just 10 minutes under the “Everyone” setting in China, a decision that critics say was due to pressure from the Chinese government. This feature was frequently used by protestors in China to sidestep government censorship. Although Apple later expanded this update globally, the original decision was seen as an illustration of the precarious position that the tech giant finds itself in when navigating the choppy waters of Sino-American relations.

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