May 22, 2024

Apple has removed Meta’s WhatsApp messaging app and its Threads social media app from the App Store in China to comply with orders from Chinese authorities. This action was taken after Chinese officials cited unspecified national security concerns.

The removal of these apps comes amidst heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over trade, technology, and national security. While the U.S. has threatened to ban TikTok over similar concerns, apps like WhatsApp and Threads are not widely used in China. WeChat, owned by Chinese company Tencent, is the dominant messaging app in the country.

Other Meta apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger remain available for download, although the use of foreign apps is blocked in China due to its “Great Firewall” network of filters that restrict access to foreign websites like Google and Facebook.

In a statement, Apple said, “The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns. We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree.” A Meta spokesman referred to Apple for comment.

Apple, previously the world’s top smartphone maker, recently lost the top spot to its Korean rival.

Samsung Electronics has faced challenges in China, one of its top three markets, with sales declining after Chinese government agencies and employees of state-owned companies were instructed not to bring Apple devices to work.

In response, Apple has been diversifying its manufacturing bases outside China. CEO Tim Cook has been actively involved in this effort, visiting Southeast Asia. He traveled to Hanoi and Jakarta before concluding his travels in Singapore. During his visit to Singapore, he met with the deputy prime minister, Lawrence Wong, to discuss Apple’s partnership with Singapore and its commitment to doing business there. Apple pledged to invest over $250 million to expand its campus in the city-state.

Cook also met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi, pledging to increase spending on Vietnamese suppliers. He also met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Cook later told reporters that they talked about Widodo’s desire to promote manufacturing in Indonesia, and said that this was something that Apple would “look at”.

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