MONEY & BUSINESS: China Denies Banning iPhones, but Cites Unspecified Security Concerns
China on Wednesday made its first public comments about reports that the government is restricting the use of Apple’s iPhones by some state employees, saying that Beijing had noted what it claimed were security concerns about the device.
The comments by Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, were short on details. She pointed to what she described as “media reports” about security flaws in the iPhone, without elaborating.
She also said China had not published “any law, regulation or policy document” banning the purchase or use of foreign cellphones, including those made by Apple.
The comments come after some employees of government agencies have said they have had been told not to use iPhones for work. Notices issued to government employees and state-owned businesses, calling for usage of domestic brands of cellphones, have also been circulating online. China’s usually strict internet censors have yet to delete claims about the restrictions.
The company’s stock price initially fell following the reports, which had suggested that Apple could lose ground in China, the world’s largest smartphone market.
Calling for curbs on the use of foreign technology by government employees isn’t new. China has discouraged officials from adopting foreign cellphones for at least a decade and told government agencies to replace American computer servers and other devices with domestic ones.
The White House national security spokesman, John F. Kirby, said on Wednesday that the U.S. government was “watching” the issue and called on China “to be more transparent about what they’re seeing and what they’re doing.”
Any major problems for Apple in China would signal an escalation in the tensions between Beijing and Washington. The American technology giant counts on China for roughly 20 percent of its revenue and much of its manufacturing, which supports hundreds of thousands of local jobs.
Smartphones represent the latest salvo in the U.S.-China tech war after the launch last week of Huawei’s Mate 60 Pro. Chinese nationalists celebrated the cellphone’s advanced features as a sign that China had developed its own chips, but the device is now the target of a U.S. review into whether it violates the embargo on U.S. semiconductor technology imposed by the Biden administration.
Apple has not said anything publicly about the recent reports. At an event in California on Tuesday, the company unveiled the iPhone 15, its newest model.
Olivia Wang and Zach Montague contributed reporting.