In-Depth

‘Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China’

The New York Times

Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong, & Daisuke Wakabayashi | The New York Times
‘Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China’
‘Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China’
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Apple in China

1

May 20, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘Apple built the world’s most valuable business on top of China. Now it has to answer to the Chinese government.’

You should read the entire, very detailed, investigative report – excellent, both about Apple and as a case study for foreign tech in China.

‘Two decades ago, as Apple’s operations chief, Tim Cook spearheaded the company’s entrance into China, a move that helped make Apple the most valuable company in the world and made him the heir apparent to Steve Jobs.’

  • ‘Apple now assembles nearly all of its products and earns a fifth of its revenue in the China region.’

‘But just as Mr. Cook figured out how to make China work for Apple, China is making Apple work for the Chinese government.’

  • ‘Behind the scenes, Apple has constructed a bureaucracy that has become a powerful tool in China’s vast censorship operation.’

'China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is increasing his demands on Western companies, and Mr. Cook has resisted those demands on a number of occasions.'

  • But he ultimately approved the plans to store customer data on Chinese servers and to aggressively censor apps, according to interviews with current and former Apple employees.'

‘Mr. Cook often talks about Apple’s commitment to civil liberties and privacy.'

  • 'But to stay on the right side of Chinese regulators, his company has put the data of its Chinese customers at risk and has aided government censorship in the Chinese version of its App Store.’

‘It proactively censors its Chinese App Store, relying on software and employees to flag and block apps that Apple managers worry could run afoul of Chinese officials, according to interviews and court documents.’

  • ‘Tens of thousands of apps have disappeared from Apple’s Chinese App Store over the past several years, more than previously known, including foreign news outlets, gay dating services and encrypted messaging apps.’
  • ‘It also blocked tools for organizing pro-democracy protests and skirting internet restrictions, as well as apps about the Dalai Lama.’

‘And in its data centers, Apple’s compromises have made it nearly impossible for the company to stop the Chinese government from gaining access to the emails, photos, documents, contacts and locations of millions of Chinese residents.’

‘The company has also helped China spread its view of the world.’

  • ‘Chinese iPhones censor the emoji of the Taiwanese flag, and their maps suggest Taiwan is part of China.’
  • ‘For a time, simply typing the word “Taiwan” could make an iPhone crash, according to Patrick Wardle, a former hacker at the National Security Agency.’
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