Beijing denies banning Apple products for government purchase

Mainland agency says firm's products had never been excluded from state purchases

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 2:46pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 August, 2014, 2:37am

In a surreal turn of events, Chinese authorities have denied reports that Apple devices were taken off a list of products allowed for government purchase.

The Government Management Procurement Office, which comes under the Ministry of Finance, said in a statement yesterday that the Apple products mentioned in reports were never on the list, because the company did not submit the relevant documents for them to qualify as state-sanctioned energy-saving products.

Ten Apple products - including the iPad, the iPad Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro - were omitted from a final government procurement list distributed last month, a Bloomberg report on Wednesday said, citing officials who asked not to be identified.

The report was described as either "speculation or misunderstanding" by the procurement office.

Apple has not released any comment about this new development. It declined to comment on the earlier story. Analysts expected media speculation about the prospects of foreign information technology suppliers on the mainland to continue.

"It will continue until the government lifts the official ban announced on the products of other companies," Sandy Shen, the Shanghai-based analyst at research firm Gartner, told the South China Morning Post.

Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system has been banned from being installed on computers owned by the government. Last week, security software firms Symantec and Kaspersky Lab were reported to have been excluded from government projects because of national security concerns.

Major foreign hi-tech companies have also been the subject of unflattering mainland media reports for alleged potential national security risks. These include IBM, Apple, Microsoft and Cisco Systems.

Foreign suppliers on the mainland, the world's second-largest market for hi-tech products behind the United States, have been put under greater scrutiny by government authorities since Washington indicted five Chinese military officers for industrial cybertheft in May.

The revelations made by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden in June last year about the cyberspying conducted by the National Security Agency also fanned the flames of fear and distrust of foreign IT suppliers.

Without setting any timeframe, the State Internet Information Office announced in May that the government wants more stringent checks of IT products and services on the mainland to bolster national security. Products that failed the checks would be banned from the mainland.

Charlie Dai, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the negative publicity on the mainland had "very limited" impact on Apple's domestic operations. "This kind of news normally has no impact on consumers, especially since the quality of Apple's products and the company's brand name are already well perceived in the market," Dai said.