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China intensifies its crackdown on officials using iPhones

Apple dominates high-end smartphone sales in the nation.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

China has widened a ban on the use of iPhones and other imported devices by government officials, according to The Wall Street Journal. State employees were reportedly told in chat groups and meetings not to bring foreign-branded device into the office or use them for work, according to "people familiar with the matter." The aim is reportedly to reduce reliance on foreign technology and improve cybersecurity.

If you're experiencing deja vu, it's because Beijing has previously blacklisted Apple and other foreign products for government departments, most recently in 2019. Back then, the government was planning to phase out western gear over a three year period in favor of local alternatives. The aim at the time was to keep data within its borders and ensure tech was "secure" and "controllable," all as part of the 2017 China Internet Security Law.

Apple has managed to stay above the fray, likely because Foxconn and other suppliers in the nation employee millions of people. It also has followed China's laws, removing thousands of illegal apps like VPNs. However, it's also more vulnerable than other companies. On top of the manufacturing dependence, the country accounts for around 19 percent of Apple's total revenue.

Following bans by the US against Huawei and other Chinese companies, Beijing followed suit with a similar embargo on chip-maker Micron. The story had a further plot twist earlier this week, when Chinese electronics company Huawei released the Mate 60 Pro smartphone using 7-nanometer homegrown chips found by a teardown to be more advanced than expected. China also unveiled a $40 billion fund for its chip industry, following continued trade sanctions with the US.

Tesla is another US company vulnerable to changes in China's policies. The nation reportedly accounted for a large chunk of its sales in its first quarter, and it's the only foreign automaker to gain market share in the first half of 2023. China recently restricted the use of Tesla vehicle by military staff and employees of state-owned companies, according to an earlier WSJ report.

Apple is set to release the iPhone 15 in less than a week, reportedly with thinner bezels, a titanium frame, USB-C charging and more. Apple has not responded to this story, but Engadget has reached out to the company for comment.