Central government agencies in China have reportedly been instructed to refrain from using Apple iPhones and other non-native technologies while at work. This new development, originally highlighted by The Wall Street Journal, suggests Beijing’s desire to decrease its dependence on foreign tech.
This strategy is not just an economic move but is also framed as a step toward enhancing cybersecurity. This aims to prevent the leak of critical information outside the country’s borders.
Given the enormous Chinese market – contributing to nearly 19% of Apple’s global revenue – such a move can potentially pose challenges for foreign brands, as noted by the Journal.
It’s not entirely new for China to express reservations about iPhones in governmental roles. However, the breadth of this recent directive implies a larger and more rigorous effort by Beijing to enforce this stance. Insider reports suggest that even central government regulatory bodies have been receiving similar notifications regarding iPhone usage.
As tensions between Beijing and Washington, D.C., escalate, China’s leadership, especially under President Xi Jinping, has emphasized the importance of national security. This has led to more stringent control over data and online actions in the past few years.
A case in point was July’s revision of China’s counter-espionage law, which now equates “documents, data, and materials” related to national security on the same level as state secrets, as reported by Reuters. Furthermore, China’s security department has actively sought public participation in counterespionage activities, providing avenues for reporting dubious activities and offering incentives for the same.
Apple’s presence in China isn’t limited to sales alone. The tech giant is responsible for millions of jobs via contract manufacturing and supply channels. Despite adhering to Beijing’s rules, like the removal of specific apps, including VPNs and some gaming apps, Apple has faced challenges in the region. Beijing, in 2021, even limited the use of Tesla vehicles for some state-owned companies and military personnel, citing national security concerns. However, Tesla’s popularity remains unaffected in the market.
While Apple has seen success in the Chinese smartphone market, especially with challenges faced by Huawei due to U.S. sanctions, Huawei’s recent launch of a high-speed flagship phone indicates the competitive dynamics at play.
In a bid to assuage China’s concerns about data storage, both Apple and Tesla have built data centers within the country.
The U.S., in contrast, has expressed apprehensions regarding Chinese apps, particularly TikTok. Despite concerns from the FBI and other departments about potential national security threats, there hasn’t been a comprehensive ban. The app’s restriction on government-issued devices has, however, been prevalent. While many states and educational institutions have imposed restrictions, users find ways around them, such as utilizing cellular data.