Helena Lyng Blak
5 weeks ago

Tech Tensions Escalate: Apple Ordered to Remove Meta-Apps from Chinese App Store

In a move that heightens tech tensions, Apple has been forced to pull Meta's popular apps from its Chinese App Store, signaling deeper geopolitical rifts.
nikkimeel / Shutterstock.com
nikkimeel / Shutterstock.com

On Friday, April 19, 2024, Apple said it had removed Threads and WhatsApp from its Chinese app store upon order from the Chinese government.

The removal of the Meta-owned apps was dictated by the Chinese Cyberspace Administration, citing national security concerns as the reason.

"The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns," Apple said to Reuters, further stating that, “We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree.”

The apps were already blocked in China and could only be accessed through the use of a virtual private network (VPN). When you use a VPN, it sends your internet traffic through a secure and private path. A VPN allows internet users to, among other functions, circumvent location-based restrictions.

Nevertheless, the removal of the two American apps highlights the heightening tensions between the United States and China in the realm of technology.

The TikTok Ban

Across the Pacific, the US, also citing national security, is currently working towards legislation that would either ban the social media app TikTok in the US or force its parent company to sell ownership of the app’s American operations.

Since then, a bipartisan divest-or-ban bill has passed through the House of Representatives (twice). The bill will, reportedly, go before the US Senate this week.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs and is owned by a mix of said entrepreneurs (20%), ByteDance employees within and outside of China (20%), and several global institutional investors (60%). None of its Board of Directors are based in mainland China, but rather the US, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The app, which is not available in mainland China, is headquartered in California and Singapore.

The Chip War

Perhaps even more financially significant than the struggle of social media restriction is the so-called 'chip war': A race to dominate the production, development and research of technology’s perhaps most valuable hardware, the microchip.

With the CHIPS and Science Act, Biden has earmarked more than $50 billion to strengthen the American position as a leading semiconductor manufacturer as well as bolster US R&D of the technology.

Meanwhile, in China the topic is even more politically charged. Although mainland China, according to Trendforce, sits on about 26% of the global foundry capacity, with the US at 6%, Taiwan, whose political status is both contested and controversial, holds a staggering 46%.

With these recent moves by China and the US, the tech industry remains a billion dollar pawn in a geopolitical game of power, economic interest, and influence.

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