Recently Apple has decided to remove VPN (Virtual Private Network) applications from its app store in China.
The move has triggered much criticism from many in the US who see this as being complacent with a country which imposes strong censorship on its citizens through what is dubbed as its “Great Firewall“. China is one of many countries around the world that censors access to websites that it deems to be a threat to state power. As the Chinese government continues to crack down on the use of VPN software, which has been used to evade content filters by many people in the country, Apple has had to make a tough choice of whether or not to comply with requests to remove VPN applications off of their app store.
Apple chose to remove these applications because they realized that not doing so would greatly reduce their business opportunities in the country. Apple has invested serious capital in the production and sale of their flagship products in China, namely iPhones, iPads, and a whole host of other computers. China is one of the largest markets for Apple, and as the company faces strong competition from more local firms, Apple has chosen the route of remaining careful about running into issues with the Chinese government.
Many companies have attempted to challenge the Chinese government’s restrictions with mixed success. Google, for example, tried its best to avoid having to impose censorship on its search engine and services in mainland China. This worked for sometime, when for example, it used a Hong Kong based server to provide search results. However, the Chinese authorities blocked all Google services in the mainland, and now Google is working to return back to the mainland, this time in compliance.
Companies like Apple and Google face these tough decisions everyday, both abroad and in the USA with agencies like the NSA. Therefore, it would be wrong to give such companies a unique amount of blame for choosing to comply with state authorities, when given the circumstances, there would be much to lose. We will have to wait and see how Apple’s decision will effect how other firms in China, whether foreign or domestic, decide to interact with the Chinese government’s regulations.