Sour apples: China tells government officials to ditch iPhones at work


In what’s another sign of souring US-China relations, Beijing just banned government officials from using iPhones at and for work. This is bad news for Apple.

Officials at China’s central government agencies will not be able to use Apple’s iPhones and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Wednesday.

The directive, allegedly shared with government staff around the country in recent weeks, is another step in Beijing’s mission to cut reliance on foreign tech and strengthen cybersecurity. The government also wants to limit flows of sensitive information outside China, the WSJ said.

According to its sources, at least in some, presumably more important state agencies, using iPhones has been restricted for quite a while anyway. However, the order has now been widened.

This is bad news for Apple, the largest company in the world. The tech giant dominates the high-end smartphone market in China and relies on it for about 19% of its overall revenue.

Yes, China houses the majority of Apple’s device-making factories, and is an integral part of the company’s supply chain. But Bloomberg recently reported that US-China tensions are hurting Apple’s global supply chain and pushing up prices for consumers worldwide.

Of course, the reported ban (it’s not clear which other foreign-branded devices are covered besides Apple) is something of a mirror to what has been happening with Chinese technology in many Western countries.

For example, the US has banned products from Chinese tech giants such as Huawei from being used in critical infrastructure, and US sanctions hit Huawei’s ability to make 5G phones – thus helping Apple’s position in China.

American government employees also cannot use the Chinese-owned app TikTok on work devices, although the popular platform is not banned nationwide.

Both superpowers are worried about data leaks and national security, and have been urging agencies and state institutions to replace foreign tech with homegrown products which they deem to be safer and easier to control – at least in China’s case.

The US and China are also rivals in developing the most modern new digital technologies. China’s domestic companies are in a rush to develop high tech industries that can compete with Western firms, particularly in areas like chip development that are vital components in many key products.

China unveiled a major tech breakthrough this week after Huawei released a new smartphone model suggesting advanced microchip capabilities.

The country was not thought to be capable of this due to strict Western export controls. Late in 2022, the US imposed new export restrictions on advanced semiconductors and chip-manufacturing equipment in an effort to prevent American technology from advancing China’s military power.

In response, China recently announced further restrictions on exports of rare metals widely used in semiconductors, electric vehicles, and other hi-tech industries – and as leverage in the economic competition with the US.


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