The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the situation, that China has instructed officials at major government organizations to refrain from using Apple’s iPhones and other foreign-branded smartphones for work or bringing them into the office.
The WSJ reported that the directives were recently provided by bosses to their personnel, although it was unclear how extensively they were being disseminated.
The ban comes ahead of an Apple event next week that analysts believe will be about launching a new line of iPhones, and could trigger concern among foreign companies operating in China as Sino-U.S. tensions escalate.
The WSJ report did not name other phone makers besides Apple. Apple and China’s State Council Information Office, which handles media queries on behalf of the Chinese government, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
For over a decade, China has been seeking to reduce reliance on foreign technologies, asking state affiliated firms such as banks to switch to local software and promoting domestic chip manufacturing.
Beijing ratcheted up this campaign in 2020, when its leaders proposed a so-called “dual circulation” growth model to reduce reliance on overseas markets and technology, as its concern over data security grew.
In May, China urged big state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to play a key role in its drive to attain self-reliance in technology, raising the stakes in the race amid rifts with the United States.
Sino-U.S. tensions have been high as Washington works with allies to block China’s access to vital equipment needed to keep its chip industry competitive, and Beijing restricts shipments from prominent U.S. firms including planemaker Boeing and chip company Micron Technology.
During a visit to China last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said U.S. companies had complained to her that China had become “uninvestible”, pointing to fines, raids and other actions that have made it risky to do business in the world’s second-largest economy.
The latest restriction by China mirrors similar bans taken in the United States against Chinese smartphone maker Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL) and short video platform TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance.
China is one of Apple’s biggest markets and generates nearly one-fifth of its revenue.