“Apple Inc. took a public-opinion beating after it removed anticensorship tools from its China app store last weekend,” Li Yuan reports for The Wall Street Journal. “‘Shame on Apple!’ was a sentiment voiced on social media by some who felt Apple was placing its commercial interests above their need to access information.”
“Apple’s response, as has been the case previously, is that it did so to meet China’s regulatory requirements,” Li reports. “Get used to hearing that a lot in the future.”
“Apple’s got a China quandary. Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, is Apple’s biggest foreign market, generating about 20% of the company’s sales. China is also the mainstay of Apple’s global manufacturing and supply chain. Increasingly, as it sells iPhones to Chinese consumers, it is selling them Apple services too,” Li reports. “That is where the risks kick in. Apple became the standout China success story among big U.S. tech companies partly because the Chinese government views it as a hardware company. Now it is obviously more than that.”
“Censorship is becoming increasingly stringent under President Xi Jinping. Boisterous online debate, much less dissent, is being quashed. Internet sites, even startups, have to hire phalanxes of staff to censor content that the government deems inappropriate,” Li reports. “Apple shut down iBooks and iTunes Movies services in China last year. It removed the New York Times apps from the China App Store. Then last weekend Apple took down, according to mobile-app tracking site ASO100.com, over 400 apps with the description of ‘virtual private network’ (VPN), or software that enables users to circumvent the country’s vast system of internet filters. In all those cases, Apple said it was following Chinese laws and regulations.”
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MacDailyNews Take: Why does the Communist Party of China so fear free expression?
When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. — Thomas Jefferson
MacDailyNews Note: Tim Cook’s comments during Apple’s Q317 earnings conference call with analysts on Tuesday:
Turning to China, let me comment on what I assumed is at the root of your question about this VPN issue. Let me just address that head on. The central government in China back in 2015 started tightening the regulations associated with VPN apps, and we have a number of those on our store. Essentially, as a requirement for someone to operate a VPN, they have to have a license from the government there. Earlier this year, they began a renewed effort to enforce that policy, and we were required by the government to remove some of the VPN apps from the App Store that don’t meet these new regulations. We understand that those same requirements are on other app stores, and as we checked through that, that is the case.
Today there are actually still hundreds of VPN apps on the App Store, including hundreds by developers that are outside China, and so there continues to be VPN apps available. We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business. And we strongly believe that participating in markets and bringing benefits to customers is in the best interest of the folks there and in other countries as well. And so we believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree.
And in this particular case, now back to commenting on this one, we’re hopeful that over time the restrictions that we’re seeing are loosened because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate, and I know that that is a major focus there. And so that’s what we’re seeing from that point of view.
Some folks have tried to link it to the U.S. situation last year, and they’re very different. In the case of the U.S., the law in the U.S. supported us, which was very clear. In the case of China, the law is also very clear there. And, like we would if the U.S. changed the law here, we’d have to abide by them in both cases; that doesn’t mean that we don’t state our point of view in the appropriate way. We always do that.
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