China has ordered its central government officials not to use Apple’s iPhone and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The move is part of China’s efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign technology and protect its data security.
The directive was issued by superiors to their staff in recent weeks, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter. It was not clear how widely the order was being enforced, but it could affect millions of government employees across various departments and agencies.
The report did not name any other phone brands besides Apple, but it said that China has been promoting the use of domestic brands such as Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo among its officials and citizens. These brands have been gaining market share in China and abroad, while Apple has been facing challenges in the country due to regulatory hurdles, competition, and nationalist sentiment.
China has been increasingly concerned about data security and cyberattacks, especially amid rising tensions with the US and its allies. China has accused the US of spying on its communications and sabotaging its technology, while the US has accused China of stealing intellectual property and hacking its systems.
China has also been implementing new laws and regulations to tighten its control over data and technology, such as the Data Security Law, the Personal Information Protection Law, and the Cybersecurity Review Measures. These laws require companies to store data locally, obtain government approval for cross-border transfers, and undergo security assessments for critical information infrastructure.
The ban on iPhone use for government officials is not the first time that China has restricted the use of foreign technology for official purposes. In 2014, China banned Windows 8 from government computers, citing security risks. In 2019, China reportedly ordered all government offices and public institutions to replace foreign hardware and software with domestic alternatives within three years.
The ban could have a negative impact on Apple’s business in China, which is one of its largest and most important markets. Apple reported $14.8 billion in revenue from Greater China in the third quarter of 2023, up 58% year-over-year. However, Apple’s market share in China’s smartphone market was only 10.9% in the second quarter of 2023, down from 11.8% a year ago.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. A spokesperson for China’s State Council Information Office said that “the UK condemns any use of mercenaries or private military contractors by any state to further its foreign policy objectives in violation of international law”.