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The pain of exclusion from a party guest list is often greater than the pleasure inclusion brings. This may apply with particular force to the roll call of businesses complying with new rules on mobile app stores in China. Apple was conspicuously absent from a list published last week.
Do not panic. The US devices giant may have simply run into delays as it negotiates with the authorities.
But China has a propensity for business crackdowns and a distrust of US tech groups. The omission inspires qualms over Apple’s lucrative Chinese business.
The list of 26 app stores from China’s cyber space regulator included big local names such as Tencent, Huawei, Ant Group, Baidu and Xiaomi.
In recent months, Beijing has tightened oversight of smartphone and mobile app usage. It now requires mobile app stores and mobile apps to disclose details of their businesses.
New rules hold operators accountable if apps distributed via their stores contain illegal content. Companies including Tencent and Huawei have been policing apps more tightly.
This puts Apple in a tricky spot. The devices giant makes a fifth of its revenues in China. Growth in iPhone sales exceeded those of rival smartphone brands in the second quarter.
China is the world’s largest mobile market with more than 2.6mn apps available. Spending on apps is estimated to account for over 40 per cent of the global total.
Beijing is worried that without tougher oversight, the expanding ecosystem could harbour apps that foster criticism of its policies. At present, apps related to generative artificial intelligence are in its cross hairs.
China represents a double challenge for foreign app store operators such as Apple. They are required to disclose more information to a government hungry for technological advantage. They may be asked to help enforce political censorship, an activity that raises eyebrows back home.
As parties go, the Chinese app store shindig is becoming a socially awkward one.
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