A year ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made an extraordinary demand of Apple. To get inside a dead terrorist’s iPhone, law enforcement officials wanted the company to create a hackable version of the software that runs all iPhones.
To many legal experts, it wasn’t obvious that Apple had a winning case against the request. But facing great legal and political opposition, Apple took a stand anyway. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, argued that the company had a financial and moral duty to protect its users’ privacy and security. He made clear that Apple would obey American law – but only after trying to shape the law.
The fight paid off. On the eve of a courtroom showdown, the F.B.I. rescinded its request. It is worth underlining this point: When Apple took a public stand for its users’ liberty and privacy, the American government blinked.
Yet in China over the weekend, when faced with a broad demand by the Chinese internet authority, it was Apple that blinked.
Apple openly and publicly buts heads with the US government but not with the Chinese government because of one very simple reason: Apple is more dependent on, and beholden to, China than on and to the US. Virtually everything Apple sells is made in China, and Apple has nowhere else to go.
For a company that always tries to strive for control, it really low-waged itself into a corner.