by Dan Moren
Apple’s troubling relationship with China
Lengthy article in the New York Times by Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong and Daisuke Wakabayashi about Apple’s relationship with the Chinese government:
Behind the scenes, Apple has constructed a bureaucracy that has become a powerful tool in China’s vast censorship operation. It proactively censors its Chinese App Store, relying on software and employees to flag and block apps that Apple managers worry could run afoul of Chinese officials, according to interviews and court documents.
There are a lot of disparate issues packed into this story, but they all underline a key point: Apple’s business has been heavily reliant upon China, both in terms of manufacturing its products and, increasingly, as a market for selling those products.
That reliance is a significant vulnerability for any company, but especially one that touts its belief in human rights, equality, and privacy, three ideals that would seem to run headlong into a government that has problems with all of them. What the article makes clear is that balance of power has changed over the past decade, and whereas once Apple might have been able to convince itself that it was importing its ideals into China, it seems more and more like China’s ideals are the ones affecting Apple.
There is, simply put, no easy solution to this problem for Apple. Pulling its manufacturing from China would be cataclysmic for its operations around the entire world. Pushing back against the Chinese government’s restrictions is, frankly, little more than lip service. This is the bed that Apple has made for itself.