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

HONG KONG — Intensive endeavours by Apple and other Western tech firms to curtail their organization with Russia around its invasion of Ukraine have raised a problem for product consumers in China: Could the same factor happen there?

Considerably of Chinese consumers’ concern has been concentrated on Apple, which like Google, Microsoft and other tech giants moved immediately to curb its Russia business following President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The enterprise has stopped item profits and exports, restricted providers like Apple Pay and eradicated the Russian point out information shops RT Information and Sputnik News from the Apple Store exterior Russia.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as properly as the worldwide response, have been intently watched in Asia, in which there are prolonged-standing tensions amongst China and the self-ruling island of Taiwan, which Beijing statements as its territory. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has claimed “reunification” with Taiwan is unavoidable and has not ruled out the use of power to accomplish it, however the Taiwanese federal government says there are no symptoms of imminent assault. 

Chinese officials reject any comparison in between Taiwan and Ukraine, expressing only Ukraine is an unbiased place. But some online commenters in China, the place social media is dominated by nationalist and pro-Russian sentiment, have criticized Apple’s steps in Russia and said China should really get ready by itself for equivalent techniques.

“If 1 day China ultimately decides to liberate Taiwan, who can guarantee that our own iPhones won’t get deactivated?” a person consumer requested on Zhihu, a Chinese social media platform very similar to Quora.

Gurus say it would be challenging for Apple to wander absent from China, which is a vital producing center for the company as nicely as its third-major market right after the United States and Europe.

“It is a very different tale than what is happening in Russia,” stated Kendra Schaefer, head of tech research at Trivium, a coverage exploration workforce primarily based in Beijing.

Schaefer pointed out that Chinese laws have to have Apple and other businesses to retailer Chinese customers’ details on servers inside the place.

“The issue would be, does pulling out of China suggest that Apple not only loses its buyers, but all of its consumer facts absolutely?” she said.

Apple did not answer to emailed requests for remark.

Just before the war in Ukraine, China was previously pursuing a countrywide technique of “tech independence,” emphasizing indigenous innovation and the recruitment of abroad expertise. Xi has stressed its great importance in current several years as each the Trump and Biden administrations have tightened U.S. constraints on Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE that they deem threats to countrywide stability.

“The U.S. sanctions on Huawei and ZTE through the Sino-U.S. trade war by now abruptly awoke Chinese policymakers about the significance of technological self-sufficiency,” Angela Zhang, director of the Centre for Chinese Law at the University of Hong Kong, explained in an emailed reaction to thoughts.

But Zhang stated it could get decades for China to catch up with the United States and Taiwan in the manufacturing of semiconductors and other important elements of digital devices.

“It is also extremely high-priced, if not not possible, to accomplish full self-sufficiency of lots of hardcore technologies, which require a very extended and challenging supply chain,” she extra.

Russia’s rising isolation from businesses like Apple has additional 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, observed his reliance on Apple’s cloud storage services.

“Now I’m really apprehensive that if nearly anything happened, a firm like Apple would deactivate my mobile phone and my information,” he claimed.

“The wonderful decoupling is unavoidable,” he added.

Eleanore Beatty

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