Apple steht derzeit in China unter zunehmendem Druck.

AApple is increasingly caught in the crossfire of the trade dispute between the United States and China. Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook made efforts to maintain good relations with China by meeting with Premier Li Qiang shortly after his appointment. At the time, Cook spoke about the mutually beneficial relationship between China and Apple.

Gustav Theile

Wirtschaftskorrespondent für China mit Sitz in Schanghai.

Now it should become more difficult. Instead, the iPhone company will become a figure on the geopolitical chessboard. Initially, there were reports this week that Beijing is banning iPhones in several ministries. Officials are said to have to switch to other brands by the end of the month. But that’s not all: Employees from some state agencies and companies that play a significant role in the Chinese economy have apparently been instructed to no longer use iPhones in the future.

Similar requirements had already existed in individual ministries before. However, now the rules have been expanded and are intended to be enforced much more strictly.

Huawei mit neuen 5-G-Smartphones

Für Apple sind die Folgen gravierend. Etwa neun von zehn iPhones werden Schätzungen zufolge in China hergestellt, ein Fünftel des Umsatzes macht das Unternehmen in der Volksrepublik. Der Konzern verlor nach den Berichten zeitweise mehr als 200 Milliarden Dollar an Börsenwert, in den vergangenen Tagen gab der Aktienkurs insgesamt um mehr als 6 Prozent nach.

The break-in occurs at a particularly sensitive time: the company is expected to unveil its latest iPhone model at the beginning of next week.

The iPhone ban demonstrates that the geopolitical conflict between China and the USA is not easing, despite the visits of several American ministers to the People’s Republic. Instead, the dispute seems to be increasingly shifting towards smartphones. When US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo visited China last week, Huawei quietly began selling its latest smartphone. Its features are much better than observers would have expected due to the sanctions against the technology company. For example, the phone is said to be 5G-capable. Chinese state media and social media interpreted this device as a sign that the sanctions against Huawei and the Chinese chip industry are not successful. The USA has announced an investigation into the smartphone.

Peking had recently made efforts to attract international investors. A catalog of measures stated that foreign companies should be treated more like domestic ones in the future. However, Western business representatives criticize that the government has not followed up on these announcements with actions. China’s economy is weakening, and several banks have lowered their growth forecasts for this year below the government’s target of 5 percent. In the first half of the year, the People’s Republic had also made strong efforts to engage with other US business representatives, alongside Tim Cook.

Apple has estimated the number of jobs created by the company in China to be over five million. However, due to delivery difficulties during the pandemic, the iPhone company is currently trying to diversify its production and become less dependent on China. As a result, supplier Foxconn, whose founder Terry Gou is aspiring to become the President of Taiwan, has established capacities in India, among other locations.

Unlike other Western tech companies, Apple has chosen to submit to the rules of the so-called Great Firewall of the People’s Republic. This firewall shields the Chinese internet and filters information that enters the country, or at least makes access to this information more difficult. Most Western news sites or sites like Wikipedia are not accessible through official channels. Google and Facebook are not reachable either, but they also cannot get caught in the crossfire.