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China Bites the Apple

The Apple logo displayed at an event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., September 10, 2019. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

It’s not just the NBA that is getting entangled by the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda, it’s almost any significant company operating in China. Apple has reportedly removed a Taiwan flag emoji from its iOS software if you set your region to Hong Kong or Macau. Meanwhile China is hysterically accusing Apple of assisting the Hong Kong protest movement for approving an App Store app that allows iPhone users to coordinate based on location.

This problem looks like it is only going to get worse for Apple.

A few years ago, Tim Cook was asked about how he thought about participation in China. He compared himself to Teddy Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” who gets criticized no matter his decisions. He praised “engagement” and respectfully following the laws of the land, even when you disagree with them. He said he thought that this was how change happened, rather than sitting on the sidelines and “yelling.” I suppose I would ask him, does he think the protestors in Hong Kong are engaged? Are they like the man “in the arena?” Or are they just yelling from the sidelines? Apple has freedom to denounce laws it doesn’t like in the United States. Right now it is discovering it doesn’t have the freedom to dislike the laws in China.

In my own view, Apple should consider President Trump’s advice to begin offshoring production out of China. The demands for complicity in CCP aims are only going up. This will be painful and costly. And not just for Apple. In a prescient article Irwin Stelzer predicted that China and America would continue to create separation between their economies. Chi-merica is falling apart. Let it.

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