China has banned government officials from using Apple’s iPhone and other foreign-branded devices for work, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, mirroring similar technology bans against Chinese technology in the West as Beijing cracks down on information leaks and domestic firms push to develop high tech industries that rival U.S. heavyweights.
Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the Journal said officials at central government agencies had been told of the ban by superiors in recent weeks through workplace chat groups or in meetings.
The order also prohibits officials from bringing iPhones and other foreign devices into the workplace.
It’s not clear how widely the orders have been disseminated across China’s government but similar instructions have also been handed down to employees at some central government regulators, according to the Journal.
Beijing has reportedly restricted officials from using foreign devices at some government agencies for years but has now broadened the directive as part of a wider push to enforce strict controls on information security.
Apple, which counts China as one of its biggest markets, did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.
What We Don’t Know
Besides Apple, it’s not clear what foreign-branded devices are covered by the ban.
The reported ban comes as part of a wider push among Beijing’s top brass to enact strict controls over data and information flows within and outside of China. It adds to stringent but vaguely worded security laws that have rankled foreign business executives and sparked a series of sporadic raids on foreign firms dealing with information. China’s domestic firms are also vying to develop high tech industries that can compete with Western firms, particularly in areas like chip development that are vital components in many key products. The reported bans are something of a mirror to what has gone on with Chinese technology in many Western countries, including the U.S., where governments have banned products from Chinese companies like Huawei from being used in critical infrastructure or government employees from using Chinese-owned app TikTok on work devices.
China unveiled a major tech breakthrough this week after Huawei released a new smartphone model suggesting advanced microchip capabilities. The vital technology is a key shaper of the global economy. Equipment used to manufacture the advanced chips is made by just a handful of firms around the world and is the subject of strict Western export controls. China was not thought to be able to catch up to the field’s bleeding edge and the development suggests the tech trade war between China and other countries could escalate further.