Apple has already faced a diplomatic row between the US and China and now faces the prospect of being embroiled in it in China-Taiwan politics . State media announced a Chinese investigation into Foxconn.
Update: China today described the investigation as a routine police matter, but did not directly address the widespread belief that it is trying to exert political pressure. more details below …
Apple is hugely dependent on Foxconn, with one plant in China estimated to be responsible for 80% of global iPhone production & #8230;
At a Glance: China vs. Taiwan
The Chinese government is considering the island as the territory of his country. Taiwan, in turn, formally still claims control over mainland China as the exiled legitimate government, but has not taken any practical steps to exercise power, content to consider itself an independent state.
Taiwan has its own its own constitution, elections, passport, currency and armed forces.
However, China refuses diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes Taiwan's independence, so most Western countries play an uneasy game of pretending not to recognize by having “representative offices” on the island – which are embassies in all but name.
The last couple of years have seen growing concern about the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
- The crisis in Ukraine puts Apple's unsustainable dependence on China in the spotlight.
- Disaster scenario Apple is a possibility, US and UK security officials say.
- An invasion of Taiwan in 2025 is gaining traction; Apple and other companies have no time to prepare.
China is investigating Foxconn
Arstechnica quotes Chinese state media announcing an investigation into Foxconn.
China has launched an investigation into Apple iPhone maker Foxconn over tax and land use issues, Chinese state media reported [ …]
The Global Times citing anonymous sources, said that tax authorities were inspecting Foxconn facilities in Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces, and natural resources officials were inspecting facilities in Henan and Hubei.
It is noteworthy that the named provinces include Henan, which contains the city of Zhengzhou, also known as iPhone City.
This was probably the purpose of political intimidation
The nature of the alleged crimes is unclear, but one element of the report appears to give a very strong hint that the motivation is political.
In the Global article The Times quotes an expert who says: “Taiwan-funded enterprises, including Foxconn… must also assume corresponding social responsibility and play a positive role in promoting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.” [Our accent]
The reason? Foxconn founder and major shareholder Terry Gou is running as an independent candidate in Taiwan's presidential election in January. He is known as a strong supporter of Taiwan's independence from China.
The implication here seems to be that if Gou doesn't toe the political line, his business interests in China will be at risk. Gou, however, is unlikely to allow himself to be subjected to such pressure.
“If the Chinese Communist Party regime said: “If you do this” “Don’t listen me, I will seize your assets from Foxconn,' I would say, 'Yes, please do it!'” Gou said when announcing his presidential run on Aug. 28. “I can't follow their orders. I will not be threatened.”
Once again, Apple may find its own operations disrupted by events over which it has no control.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is doing everything possible to develop positive relations with China. He is (or was) on an extensive national tour. His visit included a meeting with a senior Communist Party official to announce a donation to a rural development program (i.e., “there's some money, please be nice to us”).
Update: China says non-denial
Bloomberg reports a brief statement from the Chinese government saying the investigation is legal but does not address the claims about political motivation.
“Checking whether companies comply with laws is a normal law enforcement activity, and in accordance with laws and regulations,” Zhu Fenglian said , spokesman for the government department in Beijing that handles relations with Taiwan.
Zhengzhou photo: Hao Zhang/Unsplash