Will Apple be the last US tech giant left in China?

"The crackdown suggests that both Apple and Microsoft are very aware that their position is more tenuous than it's been in recent years. They know they need to walk carefully," says James Griffiths, author of The Great Firewall of China.

There was a time when the US tech giants were all in China - even Facebook. Today, Apple's huge presence in the country looks increasingly conspicuous.

Last week Microsoft, which still operates in China, announced it was to shut down its social network, LinkedIn, there.

The company said having to comply with the Chinese state had become increasingly challenging - so it pulled the plug.

Apple has its own censorship problems in the country.

The BBC reported last week that two popular religious apps had been removed from Apple's App Store.

It later emerged that Amazon-owned Audible and the Yahoo Finance app had also been taken down.

Apple Censorship, a group that monitors the App Store, says it has seen an increase in apps that have been removed this month.

So what is going on?

The great tech crackdown

It is notoriously hard to gauge what's happening behind closed doors in Beijing.

Still, what is becoming increasingly clear is that Apple and Microsoft are embroiled in a domestic battle between the authorities and the Chinese tech industry.

China has its own big tech titans - Tencent, Alibaba and Huawei - that are enormous global companies. But the Chinese government has grown worried about the power they wield.

In April, Alibaba accepted a record $2.8bn (£2bn) fine after an investigation found that it had abused its dominant market position

In August, the Chinese government unveiled a five-year plan outlining tighter regulation of the tech economy

It's also been cracking down on Bitcoin

American companies haven't been spared from the "great tech crackdown".

"The crackdown suggests that both Apple and Microsoft are very aware that their position is more tenuous than it's been in recent years. They know they need to walk carefully," says James Griffiths, author of The Great Firewall of China.

The straw that broke the camel's back for Microsoft appears to be a law due to come into force on 1 November - the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) - which would have required the company to comply with more regulation.

Microsoft alludes to it in a statement explaining its decision to pull LinkedIn: "We're facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China."

Graham Webster, editor-in-chief of the DigiChina Project at Stanford University, said: "I think they decided it just wasn't worth it."

Mr Webster links the decision to say goodbye to LinkedIn to forthcoming enforcement of the PIPL.


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