Beijing's clampdown on the use of foreign information technology in the nation's public sector may have exposed new levels of distrust, after a report suggested that a range of Apple devices are being excluded from government purchases.
Ten Apple products - including the iPad, the iPad Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro - were omitted from a final government procurement list distributed in July, a Bloomberg report said yesterday, citing officials who asked not to be identified.
The models were on a June version of the list drafted by the National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Finance, the officials said.
The next review for the list will be in January. Products from Dell and Hewlett-Packard were included on both lists, the officials said.
A source told the South China Morning Post that there were multiple procurement lists in the public sector.
Apple declined to comment.
Sandy Shen, the Shanghai-based analyst at research firm Gartner, said the reported list "was more indicative of the government's position rather than something that would impact Apple's future sales".
Foreign suppliers in China, 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.
Revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in June last year about US cyberspying also fanned distrust of foreign information-technology suppliers.
The State Internet Information Office announced in May that the government wants more stringent checks of information-technology products and services to bolster national security, although no time frame for implementation was set.
Products that failed the checks would be banned from China.
Major foreign hi-tech companies have recently been the subject of unflattering reports in Chinese media about their potential national security risks. These included IBM, Apple, Microsoft and Cisco Systems.
Last Friday, security software firms Symantec and Kaspersky Lab were reported to have been excluded from government projects.
Xiang Ligang, the founder of information technology and telecommunications portal operator CCTime in Beijing, said yesterday that news of the government restriction on Apple could well be "a hint" by the state of what's in store for the company in the future.
"Once a clear regulation is set, the big state-owned enterprises will follow," Xiang said.
Charlie Dai, an analyst at Forrester Research in Beijing, said: "Consumers normally don't care about the regulations in the public sector. Sometimes, restrictions can trigger more enthusiasm for them to purchase the targeted products."