Geo Focus: Asia , Geo-Specific , Government

China Denies Banning Government Use of Apple iPhones

China Cites Apple Security Flaws in Warning to Foreign Mobile Device Manufacturers
China Denies Banning Government Use of Apple iPhones
Shoppers wait outside a new Apple store in Beijing's Sanlitun area. (Image: Shutterstock)

China hasn't ordered any restrictions on the use of Apple iPhones by government agencies, according to a Chinese government spokesperson, but the official cited recent security flaws in the iPhone and warned that foreign mobile device manufacturers must abide by domestic information security laws.

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Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Wednesday responded to media reports about Chinese government agencies issuing circulars to ban the use of iPhones by employees, stating that the Chinese government had not issued any law, regulation or policy to that effect.

Ning said China is committed to "advancing high-level opening up" of its market to international businesses, the statement added.

Apple stock dropped 6% over two days last week, costing the company about $200 billion in losses, according to a Bloomberg report that said the Chinese government had later extended the ban to several other state-owned companies, indicating that nearly all of the country's 56.3 million public sector employees could eventually be prevented from bringing iPhones to work.

News of the ban came to light a few days after Apple had marked the 30th anniversary of its operations in China and the unveiling of the iPhone 15. The Cupertino-based smartphone giant presently enjoys a 20% share in the Chinese market and reported $570 billion in Apple Store sales in the country last year.

While the Foreign Ministry in its press statement denied making any moves to ban iPhone use, the official did cite recent zero-day security flaws in iPhones to stress the country's zero tolerance to mobile companies violating the country's data security laws and regulations.

"Recently we did notice media reports about security issues related to iPhone. The Chinese government attaches great importance to cyber and information security," Ning said.

"We hope all cellphone companies operating in China will strictly abide by China's laws and regulations, such as the Data Security Law of the People's Republic of China and the Personal Information Protection Law of the People's Republic of China, enhance information security management, protect consumers' data stored in the cellphones against theft by any individual or organization, and ensure information security," she added.

In May, the Cyberspace Administration of China, China's cybersecurity agency, banned sales of U.S. chipmaker Micron's products following a cybersecurity review that revealed "relatively serious security issues." Micron earned $3.3 billion from product sales of device memory and storage products in mainland China in 2022 but is scaling down its presence there (see: China Bans Micron Chip Sales).

The ban on sales of Micron's products followed close on the heels of the Biden administration severely restricting Chinese access to high-end chips necessary to power artificial intelligence. Reacting to reports about China's iPhone ban, John Kirby, the White House's National Security Council spokesperson, called the move retaliatory.

"It seems to be of a piece of the kinds of aggressive and inappropriate retaliation to U.S. companies that we've seen from the PRC in the past," Kirby said during a press conference Wednesday. "But the truth is: We don’t have perfect visibility on exactly what they're doing and why, and we certainly would call on them to be more transparent about what they're seeing and what they're doing."


About the Author

Jayant Chakravarti

Jayant Chakravarti

Senior Editor, APAC

Chakravarti covers cybersecurity developments in the Asia-Pacific region. He has been writing about technology since 2014, including for Ziff Davis.




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