Three clues make evidence; therefore, the move against American IT companies in China has been clearly established. The latest measure is probably the most clamorous: Apple has been excluded from the list of suppliers for governmental agencies. Chinese tax revenue will not be used to purchase Ipads and MacBooks. The extent of the regulation is not yet clear; even less clear is the reason for the measure, confused in inevitable “security reasons.” Its impact derives from opposite considerations. On one hand, its significance is clear: no product from any brand is stronger than government-imposed laws. On the other, the Cupertino-based business’s success in China was triumphant. The measure caters largely to an audience of consumers far from public procurement. China is Apple’s second largest market after the US. Greater China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong) records 16% of Apple’s total turnover. Beijing seems to be targeting this very extraordinary public success. Last April, the Chinese state TV violently attacked Apple, accusing it of using user data fraudulently and offering them inferior customer service.
In reality, Apple is atoning for an original sin, much greater than its alleged liabilities. It’s involved in the cyber war between the US and China. Beijing is accusing it of being Washington’s instrument in the immense spy operation known as Datagate, which exploded after Snowden’s revelations. China is accused of stealing sensitive information on a large scale. Last May, five officers in the Chinese military were incriminated in the US for industrial espionage. Furthermore, certain high-tech companies have been prohibited from doing business in the US. We are, therefore, witnessing an upsurge of tensions. The latest Chinese regulation also involved the antivirus software companies, Kasperky and Symmantec. Previously, Google, Cisco, IBM, and Qualcomm were all struck.
We’re probably witnessing role playing, a script that’s already been written that could, in any case, escape control. Cyber security is not just any kind of good on which you can impose duties or quotas. Beijing is tightening its grip, but it’s revealing a persistent weakness. It still can’t compete with Washington technologically. Decades haven’t passed in Silicon Valley in vain. The forge of creativity has combined talent, business, venture capital, and military contracts. An irreproachable supremacy has resulted, especially for a country specialized in unsophisticated production. Furthermore, the disproportionate pleasure that Apple products incite in Chinese customers (and not only the Chinese) makes the closure of the market more of an agitated scarecrow rather than a real threat. This is why the latest regulation against Apple is only symbolic. It tends to reaffirm Beijing’s strength at a time when its citizens are calling it into question while buying Ipads and Macbooks.