china Overview Updated March 25, 2021


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September 2010 - April 2022


China has been fundamental to Apple’s historical success, but is also arguably the greatest risk to the company’s future.

Why are most Apple products made in China?

Although everyone assumes Apple products are made in China because labor is cheap there, that’s only part of the story – and an increasingly small part, as the company’s assembly partners move toward increasingly automated operations.

Steve Jobs originally transferred most Apple manufacturing to China because it was the only country in the world with a huge ready-made supply-chain network, and the ability to scale up production almost overnight. There are three main reasons China – and specifically the Shenzhen area – is such a powerful manufacturing center.

First, the city is strategically placed, serving as the gateway between mainland China and Hong Kong. It is one of the largest shipping centers in the world, with a massive container port.

Second, the Chinese government established Shenzhen as the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the country. SEZs are designed to encourage enterprise through relaxed planning regulations and generous tax incentives – and crucially, to facilitate foreign investment in local companies. It is this, as much as its geographical advantages, which has enabled it to grow at such a pace.

Third, that SEZ was established way back in 1980, meaning that the city has had over 40 years to grow into the manufacturing center of the tech world. Apple relies on a huge network of suppliers and sub-contractors, some of which may make just a single tiny component. The majority of them are based in Shenzhen and its immediate surrounds, so the logistics of bringing everything together in one place for assembly are straightforward.

What are the risk factors with China?

Being over-dependent on China carries a number of risks.

First, there is the generic one: Being overly dependent on any one country is a strategic risk. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic originated there, and had a massive impact on manufacturing capacity. Anything from a natural disaster to political upheaval could disrupt operations within a single country, so it is always wise to have a diverse range of manufacturing centers around the world.

Second, the relationship between the US and China has often been fraught. The trade war started by the previous US administration was a particularly low point, but continued tensions mean that there is always a risk of disruptions to trade between the two countries.

Third, it is increasingly damaging to Apple’s reputation to be so closely associated with a country that has a worsening human rights record – especially when the iPhone maker has no choice but to comply with local laws, however much they may conflict with the company’s own values. Apple has been required to remove VPN and a variety of other apps from the Chinese App Store, allow the iCloud data of Chinese customers to be stored on government-controlled servers, and more. Additionally, there have been growing reports of forced labor in China, including within many different areas of Apple’s supply chain.

What is Apple doing about it?

Apple has been working for a long time on diversifying its manufacturing operations, and has in recent years accelerated the pace at which it is doing so.

As explained above, this is far from an easy undertaking, but Apple now has major manufacturing operations in India, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, among other countries. In India in particular, we are seeing the very early stages of a complete supply-chain infrastructure as the government uses a mix of carrot and stick to encourage companies to manufacture more of their components within the country – namely, tariffs on imports of components and tax breaks for local production.

china Stories Yesterday

A campaign group has criticized Apple’s twice-yearly transparency reports, saying that in one very important respect they are not very transparent.

One section of the report covers App Store Takedown Requests, and Apple is accused of deliberately concealing information about the apps it removes …

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china Stories April 20

Analysis has shown that a full half of the top 200 Apple suppliers are located within areas of China at risk from COVID-19 lockdowns. These include not just high-profile companies responsible for final assembly of Apple products – Pegatron, Quanta, and Compal – but also critical component suppliers.

One top Chinese tech exec has warned that tech production in the area “will come to a complete halt” unless things change within the next 10 days …

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china Stories April 19

The world’s biggest iPhone assembly plant – nicknamed iPhone City – has escaped COVID-19 shutdowns, as three other key Apple suppliers in China were last week forced to halt production.

Foxconn managers say that production is “proceeding well,” with 200,000 workers at work in the facility …

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china Stories April 15

Apple’s supply chain is being badly hit by COVID-19 lockdowns in China, with the situation getting worse, say analysts. It follows Apple production being halted at three key suppliers, affecting iPhoneiPad, and Mac assembly. This has already seen shipping dates slip for build-to-order MacBook Pro models.

The worst-case scenario could see iPhone production falling behind by as many as 10 million units …

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china Stories April 14

The Apple supply chain last year doubled its use of clean energy, as the Cupertino company works on its goal of its entire supply chain being 100% carbon neutral by 2030.

The iPhone maker said that a total of 213 of its major manufacturing partners have now committed to powering all Apple production from renewable energy …

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china Stories April 12

The latest COVID-19 lockdown measures in China have seen Apple production halted at three key Chinese suppliers. One of these in particular could significantly hit iPhone availability.

Assembly of iPhones, iPads, and Macs has been suspended in the electronics production hubs of Shanghai and Kushan …

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china Stories March 31

A disruption to Apple’s supply chain for iPhone storage chips could see the Cupertino company buying flash memory from a Chinese supplier for the very first time.

It’s not an ideal situation at the best of times, given that Apple is aiming to reduce, rather than increase, its dependance on China. But it may prove particularly controversial in the current climate …

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china Stories March 28

Apple investment in US technology is likely to be boosted in response to the Ukraine crisis demonstrating the fragility of over-dependence on Taiwan and China, suggests a new analyst report.

The report cites a recent statement by the CEO of the world’s largest asset management company …

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china Stories March 16

Shenzhen iPhone production was forced to shutdown at two Foxconn facilities due to a new COVID-19 outbreak – but has now partially restarted.

Although the Chinese government ordered the city into complete lockdown for at least a week, it has now granted an exemption to Foxconn to use the same ‘closed loop’ system used by other companies in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic …

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china Stories March 2

The Ukraine crisis has cast a new spotlight on an issue I’ve been raising for several years now: Apple’s unsustainable dependence on China.

With Russia, Apple can afford to take a stand against the country, and it is doing so. It has suspended sales in the country; stopped all exports to Russia; blocked access to state media apps from outside the country; disabled live info in Apple Maps; is donating to humanitarian work; and is effectively tripling employee donations

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china Stories March 1

Global iPhone production reportedly set a new all-time record in the holiday quarter, Apple managing to balance huge demand for the iPhone 13 line-up with a well-managed supply chain operation to minimize the impact of component shortages.

Two additional factors were at play for Apple, according to market intelligence company TrendForce …

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china Stories February 2

A $1M iPhone repair scam running for more than three years has led to a Chinese man receiving a prison sentence, and being asked to pay almost $2M in restitution and penalties.

Using a method that has been used by other fraudsters, Haiteng Wu tricked Apple into accepting “returns” of counterfeit iPhones and replacing them with real ones …

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china Stories February 1

Apple and other tech giants are using anti-China lobbying as part of their attempts to fend off US antitrust legislation, according to a new report today.

The lobbying is being done via US foreign policy think tanks …

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china Stories January 31

Apple Chinese New Year celebration on homepage and new Shot on iPhone video

An Apple Chinese New Year celebration features cartoon tigers dropping as you scroll down the Chinese homepage, in recognition of the year of the tiger…

china Stories January 26

The iPhone took the top slot in China during Q4, with Apple achieving its highest ever share of the smartphone market in the country – led by the iPhone 13.

Apple was previously in 4th place in the market share stakes, behind Huawei, Vivo, and Oppo …

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china Stories January 18

Use of the Chinese Olympics app, MY2022, is mandatory for everyone attending this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, whether as an athlete or simply watching from the stadium.

The app collects sensitive personal data – like passport details, medical data, and travel history – and analysis by security researchers reveals that the code has two security holes that could expose this information …

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china Stories October 15, 2021

A popular Quran app has been removed from Apple’s Chinese App Store at the request of the government, according to a new report today.

The removal of the Quran Majeed app was first noticed by a site called Apple Censorship

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china Stories October 12, 2021

Apple’s dependence on China has been a recurring concern, with trade wars, COVID-19-related supply constraints, and human rights abuses all being highlighted at different times. Now a group of public advocacy groups has written to congressional house leaders to flag their own worries.

The letter was written in response to claims that US antitrust legislation would disadvantage American companies, and even pose national security risks …

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china Stories October 8, 2021

A report last month described problems caused by power outages in China, and a new one today describes Apple suppliers struggling to keep production on track.

We previously described three reasons for the increasingly common electricity restrictions in the country …

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china Stories October 5, 2021

A Chinese consumer has been given the go-ahead to take an “Apple tax” antitrust case to court, as China’s Supreme Court rejected Apple’s call for the lawsuit to be thrown out.

A local report says that this is a small legal loss, but could have big implications for the Cupertino company …

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china Stories September 27, 2021

A crackdown on energy usage in China has seen a number of key Apple suppliers halt production, according to a new report today.

One supplier to both Apple and Tesla said that it had been forced to suspend production from Sunday until this coming Friday, while another said it would need to cease production in two cities until the end of the month …

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china Stories September 8, 2021

A Chinese company has filed a lawsuit as it seeks an injunction to stop iPhone production in China, including the upcoming iPhone 13.

Xiao-i (whose full name is Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co) previously made an unsuccessful attempt to block sales of all devices with Siri in China, claiming that Apple’s intelligent assistant (IA) violated a “chat robot” patent the company owns …

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china Stories August 19, 2021

The Apple engraving service – available as a free option when ordering one of six product categories direct from Apple – has been accused of political censorship in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Apple aims to ban offensive words and phrases, and in the US bans 170 words. In China, however, the number of banned words and phrases is more than a thousand, and includes many political references…

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china Stories July 12, 2021

Update: The vaccine purchase has now been made.

Apple suppliers TSMC and Foxconn are working on buying millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines for Taiwan. The plan is for the two companies to buy the vaccines, then donate them to the government for distribution to the people of the island nation.

The indirect arrangement, where the government authorizes private companies to buy vaccines on behalf of the country, is designed to thwart Chinese interference …

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