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

HONG KONG — Extensive endeavours by Apple and other Western tech companies to curtail their business with Russia above its invasion of Ukraine have elevated a dilemma for products consumers in China: Could the same detail transpire there?

Substantially of Chinese consumers’ concern has been centered on Apple, which like Google, Microsoft and other tech giants moved rapidly to curb its Russia business right after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The firm has stopped merchandise income and exports, limited expert services like Apple Spend and taken off the Russian point out news outlets RT News and Sputnik News from the Apple Store outside the house Russia.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as perfectly as the international reaction, have been intently viewed in Asia, wherever there are extended-standing tensions involving China and the self-ruling island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. Chinese chief Xi Jinping has claimed “reunification” with Taiwan is inescapable and has not dominated out the use of drive to realize it, although the Taiwanese government says there are no indicators of imminent assault. 

Chinese officials reject any comparison concerning Taiwan and Ukraine, declaring only Ukraine is an independent state. But some on the internet commenters in China, where by social media is dominated by nationalist and professional-Russian sentiment, have criticized Apple’s steps in Russia and explained China should really get ready by itself for related tactics.

“If 1 working day China at last decides to liberate Taiwan, who can promise that our individual iPhones will not get deactivated?” just one user questioned on Zhihu, a Chinese social media system very similar to Quora.

Industry experts say it would be difficult for Apple to wander away from China, which is a vital production middle for the firm as nicely as its 3rd-premier current market right after the United States and Europe.

“It is a pretty different story than what is happening in Russia,” stated Kendra Schaefer, head of tech exploration at Trivium, a plan investigate staff dependent in Beijing.

Schaefer pointed out that Chinese restrictions involve Apple and other businesses to retailer Chinese customers’ details on servers within the region.

“The dilemma would be, does pulling out of China indicate that Apple not only loses its customers, but all of its consumer info absolutely?” she explained.

Apple did not answer to emailed requests for remark.

Right before the war in Ukraine, China was by now pursuing a nationwide strategy of “tech independence,” emphasizing indigenous innovation and the recruitment of abroad expertise. Xi has stressed its relevance in recent yrs as each the Trump and Biden administrations have tightened U.S. restrictions on Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE that they deem threats to nationwide stability.

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

But Zhang said it could get decades for China to catch up with the United States and Taiwan in the producing of semiconductors and other vital parts of electronic devices.

“It is also very costly, if not impossible, to obtain complete self-sufficiency of many hardcore systems, which include a really extensive and complex offer chain,” she included.

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

One commenter on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, mentioned his reliance on Apple’s cloud storage support.

“Now I’m really apprehensive that if everything happened, a enterprise like Apple would deactivate my mobile phone and my details,” he mentioned.

“The excellent decoupling is unavoidable,” he included.