China orders government workers to stop using iPhones amid heightened tensions with US

A handful of Chinese ministries have told employees to stop using iPhones at work, citing national security risks amid heightened geopolitical tensions with the United States, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The orders were handed down some time in August to employees at ministries whose portfolios are focused on investment, trade and international affairs, according to five separate sources with knowledge of the situations.

The measures were understood to be aimed at eliminating perceived national security risks caused by telecommunication devices made by the US company, sources said.

A similar ban is believed to have been in place for years for some government bodies, but the latest order has expanded that ban.

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Employees in those ministries have till the end of this month to switch to other phone brands while at work, a source said.

The Post has learned that the restrictions on phone usage were not imposed on all ministries.
The order only targets the California-designed iPhone and does not involve other smartphones with foreign brands, according to the sources.
Similar bans have been imposed by Washington and its allies on Chinese telecoms devices. The Biden administration has banned electronic equipment from Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE since November 2021 for the purpose of “protecting the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications”.

Since November 2022, many Western countries have moved to ban TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, from federal government devices over concerns that Americans’ user data could be handed over to the Chinese government if Beijing forced the company to do so, though it has never presented any solid proof.

The move by Beijing, which has not been made public, comes amid mounting mistrust with Washington over disputes on trade, technology and espionage.

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In July, China’s state security minister, Chen Yixin, called for stricter measures to “proactively defend” against spies to strengthen national security and the party’s leadership, citing risks from an unpredictable global environment.

It is not the first time Beijing has imposed restrictions on foreign technology over suspicion and national security concerns.

Two years ago, Beijing banned the US electric carmaker Tesla from entering government facilities and military compounds, citing spying concerns – though Tesla has repeatedly denied that its cars are used as means for espionage.

The ban on Tesla is still in place, sources said.


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Beijing has also stepped up legal frameworks to strengthen national security, efforts which include fashioning laws to ensure that data collected in China stays within the country’s territory.

In July, China’s new anti-espionage law came into effect, which forbade any cyberattacks against the government to gain data and information “related to national security and interests” without permission.

In 2017, China issued a Cybersecurity Law to require foreign companies to store users’ data within the country, leaving foreign firms with no options but to comply if they wanted to maintain access to China’s giant consumer market.

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Apple has hosted Chinese users’ data in a data centre located in the southwestern province of Guizhou since 2018.

In 2021, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued draft regulations requiring that all smart vehicles store data collected in China within its borders. Tesla opened a data centre in Shanghai the same year.

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