As tech companies pull back from Russia, China looks on with concern


HONG KONG — Considerable attempts by Apple and other Western tech businesses to curtail their business with Russia above its invasion of Ukraine have lifted a concern for product or service people in China: Could the identical thing transpire there?

Significantly of Chinese consumers’ problem has been targeted on Apple, which like Google, Microsoft and other tech giants moved speedily to control its Russia business just after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The corporation has stopped products sales and exports, confined products and services like Apple Pay back and eradicated the Russian condition news stores RT Information and Sputnik News from the Apple Store outdoors Russia.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the world wide reaction, have been carefully viewed in Asia, exactly where there are long-standing tensions amongst China and the self-ruling island of Taiwan, which Beijing promises as its territory. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has claimed “reunification” with Taiwan is unavoidable and has not dominated out the use of force to accomplish it, even though the Taiwanese govt says there are no signals of imminent attack. 

Chinese officials reject any comparison in between Taiwan and Ukraine, indicating only Ukraine is an impartial state. But some online commenters in China, where by social media is dominated by nationalist and pro-Russian sentiment, have criticized Apple’s steps in Russia and said China ought to put together by itself for comparable strategies.

“If a person working day China at last decides to liberate Taiwan, who can promise that our individual iPhones won’t get deactivated?” one particular person requested on Zhihu, a Chinese social media system identical to Quora.

Authorities say it would be difficult for Apple to wander away from China, which is a critical producing middle for the company as properly as its 3rd-premier current market after the United States and Europe.

“It is a quite distinct tale than what is taking place in Russia,” reported Kendra Schaefer, head of tech study at Trivium, a coverage investigate workforce dependent in Beijing.

Schaefer pointed out that Chinese laws require Apple and other organizations to retailer Chinese customers’ facts on servers inside of the state.

“The question would be, does pulling out of China mean that Apple not only loses its shoppers, but all of its buyer details completely?” she mentioned.

Apple did not reply to emailed requests for comment.

In advance of the war in Ukraine, China was now pursuing a countrywide technique of “tech independence,” emphasizing indigenous innovation and the recruitment of abroad talent. Xi has stressed its importance in recent years as the two the Trump and Biden administrations have tightened U.S. constraints on Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE that they deem threats to national safety.

“The U.S. sanctions on Huawei and ZTE all through the Sino-U.S. trade war by now abruptly awoke Chinese policymakers about the importance of technological self-sufficiency,” Angela Zhang, director of the Center for Chinese Regulation at the University of Hong Kong, reported in an emailed reaction to issues.

But Zhang explained it could get a long time for China to capture up with the United States and Taiwan in the manufacturing of semiconductors and other essential parts of electronic products.

“It is also extremely expensive, if not extremely hard, to attain comprehensive self-sufficiency of lots of hardcore systems, which contain a extremely very long and sophisticated provide chain,” she added.

Russia’s rising isolation from companies like Apple has extra to calls for China’s tech independence from the West, which is also referred to as the “great decoupling.”

Just one commenter on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, famous his reliance on Apple’s cloud storage provider.

“Now I’m seriously apprehensive that if just about anything took place, a company like Apple would deactivate my phone and my facts,” he claimed.

“The terrific decoupling is unavoidable,” he added.


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