China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has reportedly issued new rules that could restrict Apple from offering many foreign apps on its iPhone app store in China.
The rules don’t specifically target Apple, but would impact the company due to the number of apps it offers, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Friday (Sept. 29).
Apple did not immediately reply to PYMNTS’ request for comment.
These rules are part of China’s ongoing efforts to tighten censorship and data-security regulations, according to the report. The latest move aims to close a loophole in the Great Firewall — China’s strict internet regulations — which allows Chinese iPhone users to download popular Western social media apps through virtual private networks (VPNs).
The impact of this crackdown could be significant, as these social media apps have been downloaded over 170 million times in China over the past decade, the report said. However, under the new rules, Apple will no longer be able to offer these apps unless the app operators are registered with the government. Analysts believe that these operators are unlikely to register due to concerns about data transfer and censorship requirements.
The Great Firewall regulations have been in place for years, blocking access to many foreign websites and apps, per the report. The new app rules are seen as an extension of the existing registration system required for websites to operate legally in China. The country’s top internet watchdog has also required app stores to register their business details and review apps and developers before publishing them.
China is an important market for Apple, accounting for about a fifth of its sales and serving as its main manufacturing base, according to the report. While iPhones and other Apple devices remain popular among Chinese consumers, the company has faced national-security concerns in the country in the past.
It was reported on Sept. 7 that China is planning a wide-ranging ban on Apple iPhones for government workers. The ban would apply to sensitive departments of state-owned companies and government agencies. Already, these organizations have begun telling staff not to bring the devices to work, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources.