Zero-Covid policy is costing China its role as the world’s workshop

Beijing’s endless lockdowns are causing shortages for western firms such as Apple, and it may not be long before they move their supply chains elsewhere

The anti-lockdown unrest gripping China has forced the authorities in Beijing to respond by easing some restrictions in big manufacturing centres, as they map out a “new stage and mission” in the country’s deeply unpopular zero-Covid policy.

There are concerns that more freedom of movement could allow the virus to rip through a population where immunity is lower than in the west. Those health risks mean the “world’s workshop” is heading for a difficult winter, casting a shadow over the prospects for international trade.

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Protests break out at Covid-hit iPhone factory in China

Social media videos showed large crowds clashing with hazmat-suited officials amid rising worker discontent at the Foxconn plant

Hundreds of workers joined protests at Foxconn‘s huge iPhone plant in China, with some men smashing surveillance cameras and windows, footage uploaded on social media showed.

The rare scenes of open dissent in China mark an escalation of unrest at the factory in Zhengzhou city that has come to symbolise a dangerous buildup in frustration with the country’s ultra-harsh Covid rules as well as inept handling of the situation by the world’s largest contract manufacturer.

The trigger for the protests, which began early on Wednesday, appeared to be a plan to delay bonus payments, many of the demonstrators said on livestream feeds. The videos could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

“Give us our pay!” chanted workers who were surrounded by people in full hazmat suits, some carrying batons, according to footage from one video. Other footage showed teargas being deployed and workers taking down quarantine barriers. Some workers had complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Foxconn said in a statement it had fulfilled its payment contracts and that reports of infected staff living on campus with new recruits were untrue.

“Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company added.

A source familiar with the situation in Zhengzhou said production at the plant was unaffected by the worker unrest and output remained normal.

Reuters has previously reported that Foxconn aimed to resume full production at the Zhengzhou iPhone plant by the second half of November.

While the latest unrest has added “uncertainties” to the target, the source said the company was still working hard to hit it, adding that “only a portion” of the new recruits took part in the unrest.

A second source familiar with the matter, however, said Foxconn was unlikely to hit the target, pointing to disruptions triggered by the unrest, particularly affecting new recruits who were hired to bridge the gap in the workforce.

“Originally, we were trying to see if the new recruits could go online by the end of November. But with the unrest, it’s certain that we can’t resume normal production by the month-end.”

Discontent over strict quarantine rules, the company’s inability to stamp out outbreaks and poor conditions including shortages of food had caused workers to flee the factory campus since the Apple supplier imposed a so-called closed-loop system at the world’s biggest iPhone plant in late October.

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Apple limits AirDrop on iPhones in China after filesharing feature was used by protesters

The AirDrop function was being used to anonymously share digital leaflets with strangers, but has now been restricted on iPhones in China

Apple has limited filesharing features on iPhones in China, a month after reports that anti-government protesters were using the function to share digital leaflets with strangers.

Under the update to the AirDrop function released on Thursday, iPhone users in China can only opt in to receive files from non contacts during a 10-minute window before it automatically shuts off. The feature did not previously have a time limit.

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Supply fears as China lockdown hits world’s largest iPhone factory

Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, from which many workers have fled, now under seven-day Covid lockdown

Chinese authorities have announced a seven-day coronavirus lockdown in the area around the world’s largest iPhone factory, stoking concern that production will be severely curtailed ahead of the Christmas period.

Foxconn’s plant in Zhengzhou, which employs about 200,000 people, produces the majority of Apple’s new phones, including the new iPhone 14.

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TechScape: What’s really behind Apple’s shift from China

Apple is now manufacturing a new phone model outside China – and the implications could be huge. Plus, a cyberstalking saga puts social media platforms on the spot

This week, the first iPhone 14s rolled off Apple’s newest production line in Chennai, India. I understand why that doesn’t seem like huge news. The company has been assembling phones in India for some time, all of which serve the large domestic market.

But it’s an important milestone, marking the first time Apple has produced a new iPhone outside of China in the same year it was released. It is also an important step in one of Apple’s most sensitive projects: to decouple its fortunes from those of Sino-American relations.

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Apple shifts some iPhone 14 production from China to India

Move taken against background of China’s Covid lockdowns and geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington

Apple has begun making iPhone 14s in India, as it moves some production away from China for the first time against a backdrop of Chinese Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and geopolitical tensions between the US and the country’s communist government.

A production line in Chennai has begun operation, assembling the iPhone 14 for the domestic Indian market. The move, which marks the first time the company has assembled iPhones outside of China in the same year they were released, is part of a plan to disentangle its manufacturing operations from the Chinese state.

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iPhone maker Pegatron halts Shanghai production due to Covid lockdown

Operations stopped in Chinese cities of Shanghai and Kunshan as global supply chains feel pinch of Beijing's zero-Covid measures

Key iPhone maker Pegatron has halted operations at two subsidiaries in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Kunshan, as global supply chains feel the pinch of Beijing’s strict zero-Covid measures.

The business hub of Shanghai has become the heart of China’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak since the virus surfaced more than two years ago.

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Apple tells Thai activists they are targets of ‘state-sponsored attackers’

At least 17 people including protest leaders have received alerts about devices possibly being compromised

Thai activists who have called for reform of the monarchy are among at least 17 people in Thailand who say they have been warned by Apple that they have been targeted by “state-sponsored” attackers.

Warnings were sent to the prominent activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Anon Nampa, according to Panusaya’s sister May, and the administrator of Anon’s Facebook page. Panusaya and Anon are in pre-trial detention after leading demonstrations calling for the power of the monarchy to be curbed.

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Apple under pressure to act after TikTok pulls out of Hong Kong

Social media firms react to sweeping new national security legislation imposed by China

TikTok is to withdraw from Hong Kong app stores and Zoom will stop complying with city authorities’ data requests as technology companies react to the sweeping new national security laws imposed on the city by Beijing.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Telegram have already said they are “pausing” cooperation with requests for user information, putting pressure on Apple, which says it is “assessing” the new law, to do the same.

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Apple closes all stores around world outside China due to Covid-19

Tech giant, which has hundreds of shops worldwide, to shut outlets for two weeks

Apple is to close all its shops outside China for the next two weeks to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which has hundreds of outlets worldwide including dozens in the UK, said it was shutting in an effort to minimise the transmission of the disease.

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Hong Kong protests: bring back app or risk ‘complicity’ in repression, Apple told

US lawmakers including Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez write to Tim Cook urging him to restore HKMapp app

A bipartisan group of prominent US lawmakers has urged Apple chief executive Tim Cook to restore the HKMap app used in Hong Kong, as protesters push ahead with plans for another unsanctioned mass rally on Sunday.

Earlier this month, Apple removed the app that helped track police and protester movements, saying it was used to target officers.

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Uighurs in China were target of two-year iOS malware attack – reports

Android and Windows devices also targeted in campaign believed to be state-backed

Chinese Uighurs were the target of an iOS malware attack lasting more than two years that was revealed last week, according to multiple reports.

Android and Windows devices were also targeted in the campaign, which took the form of “watering hole attacks”: taking over commonly visited websites or redirecting their visitors to clones in order to indiscriminately attack each member of a community.

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