Mao’s comments about security incidents were slightly different in the official English translation of the news briefing. That translation, delivered simultaneously onsite by the ministry, omitted the reference to media “reports.” Foreign affairs ministry briefings are typically rigorously controlled and spokespeople’s responses are usually scripted ahead of time with consistent translations.
The press conference came just hours after Apple unveiled the latest model of its marquee device, the iPhone 15. The company introduced four new models, keeping pace with the past few generations: the iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. Preorders of the device begin on Friday.
Apple also has faced a number of security issues in recent months. An iPhone belonging to a staffer at a Washington-based civil society organisation was hacked remotely with spyware created by Israel’s NSO group. Apple confirmed the attack and issued a patch last week to address the issue.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, accused an unidentified US intelligence agency in June of hacking several thousand iPhones. The attacks were linked to SIM cards registered with Russia-based diplomats, including some from China, it said.
Apple didn’t comment at the time on whether any Russian phones were breached, but a spokesperson said the company didn’t help any government in the alleged attack, as the FSB implied.
If Beijing goes ahead with an iPhone ban, the unprecedented blockade will be the culmination of a years-long effort to root out foreign technology use in sensitive environments, coinciding with Beijing’s effort to reduce its reliance on American software and circuitry. Just over a week ago, Huawei quietly unveiled a smartphone with a chip a few years behind the cutting edge, which Chinese state media hailed as a triumph over US sanctions intended to curb the country’s rise.
Beijing has established laws to severely restrict the flow of information beyond China’s borders, and tighten its grip on the enormous amounts of data that will be key to controlling the world’s No. 2 economy. While Apple has for years kept data on Chinese users completely in-country through a partnership with a state-backed data centre operator, other foreign firms have struggled with new regulations that they fear could hamper their ability to operate.
Those rules give President Xi Jinping’s administration the power to shut down or fine companies that leak or mishandle sensitive information. This year, Beijing also enforced an anti-spying law that foreign multinationals fear could grant authorities unprecedented powers to crack down on their operations.
In Apple’s case, a ban threatens to erode Apple’s position in a market that yields about a fifth of its revenue, and from where it makes the majority of the world’s iPhones through sprawling factories that employ millions of Chinese. Several analysts have argued Huawei’s new phone will take market share from Apple, along with domestic competitors.
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