As tech companies pull out of Russia, China watches with concern

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China’s smartphone market could decline in the second quarter as the country experiences a resurgence in covid cases, analysts have said. But Apple could very well get away with it, analysts said, as it continues to attract high-end market users.

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HONG KONG — Extensive efforts by Apple and other Western tech companies to scale back their business with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine have raised a question for product users in China: Could the same thing happen? produce there?

Much of China’s consumer concern has centered on Apple, which, like Google, Microsoft and other tech giants, moved quickly to curb its business in Russia after President Vladimir Putin invaded the Ukraine on February 24. The company halted product sales and exports, limited services like Apple Pay, and removed Russian media outlets RT News and Sputnik News from the Apple Store outside Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the global response, has been closely watched in Asia, where there are longstanding tensions between China and the self-governing island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said ‘reunification’ with Taiwan is inevitable and has not ruled out using force to achieve it, although the Taiwanese government says there are no signs of an imminent attack. .

Chinese officials reject any comparison between Taiwan and Ukraine, saying only Ukraine is an independent country. But some online commentators in China, where social media is dominated by nationalist and pro-Russian sentiment, criticized Apple’s actions in Russia and said China should prepare for similar tactics.

“If one day China finally decides to liberate Taiwan, who can guarantee that our own iPhones will not be disabled? asked a user on Zhihu, a Chinese social media platform similar to Quora.

Experts say it would be difficult for Apple to move away from China, which is a key manufacturing hub for the company as well as its third-largest market after the United States and Europe.

“It’s a very different story from what’s happening in Russia,” said Kendra Schaefer, head of technology research at Trivium, a Beijing-based policy research team.

Schaefer pointed out that Chinese regulations require Apple and other companies to store Chinese customer information on servers inside the country.

“The question would be, does pulling out of China mean that Apple not only loses its customers, but all of its customer data?” she says.

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