Apple removes WhatsApp and Threads from China app store

The removal of WhatsApp and Threads from Apple’s China app store marks a significant escalation in the ongoing technology dispute between the US and China.

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Apple has removed the Meta-owned apps WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China, complying with orders from the country’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration, citing national security concerns. According to Apple, the move was made in accordance with local laws, despite any disagreement. The Chinese government allegedly found content on WhatsApp and Threads regarding China’s president, Xi Jinping, that violated cybersecurity laws, though specifics were unclear.

This action intensifies the technology dispute between the US and China, with Apple and Meta caught in the middle. In the US, lawmakers are considering a bill that would compel ByteDance to divest its popular video app TikTok, citing national security risks due to its ties to China. Meanwhile, the White House is tightening restrictions on Beijing’s access to advanced technologies and American financing.

Apple, reliant on China for a significant portion of its revenue, has complied with Beijing’s demands in the past, including blocking various apps and establishing a data centre to store Chinese users’ iCloud data. As tensions persist, Apple has started diversifying its supply chain, reducing its dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

While Meta’s fallout from China may be less direct, the company faces challenges elsewhere, particularly in its strained relationship with Apple over privacy and data tracking issues. In the US, efforts to address concerns over TikTok’s ownership and data handling are gaining momentum, with legislation being packaged alongside other bills related to foreign aid.