LONDON: Apple has urged its Taiwanese suppliers to change the labeling of products manufactured in the island to “Made in China,” sources reveal.
Apple sent a warning to its suppliers on Friday about China’s increased enforcement of a long-standing import law that requires Taiwanese parts and components to have the labels “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei,” amid rising tensions between the two countries.
“A tightening of the labeling rule may not just affect Apple’s suppliers, but all those that send shipments from Taiwan island to the mainland,” Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, commented.
China’s ongoing dispute over Taiwan has been at the center of political and economic attention in recent months.
Last week, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, sparking Chinese outrage and prompting a four-day military exercise by the Chinese army around the island. Pelosi was the first high-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China warned of sanctions against companies and individuals found breaching the so-called one-China principle, with goods at risk of not being approved for import or export by the authorities.
“If the mainland authorities tighten the enforcement of the rule, this may increase the probability of shipments from Taiwan island being seized by mainland customs,” Gao said.
Apple’s decision has sparked criticism from around the world. In September 2020, the US giant issued a document titled “Our Commitment to Human Rights,” in which it stated that "at Apple and throughout our supply chain, we prohibit harassment, discrimination, violence, and retaliation of any kind — and we have zero tolerance for violations motivated by any form of prejudice or bigotry.”
Apple has long depended on China for the manufacture of most of its products. Because of its reliance on China for product assembly and sales, however, the company is unwilling to speak out against flagrant violations, despite what it claims.
“Is it a question of time before Apple starts removing apps whose name contains the characters [for] Taiwan without specifying ‘province of China’,” GreatFire, an advocacy group working against Chinese censorship online, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we suspect that Apple’s ‘red-line’, the moment where it will say: ‘Stop, no longer, we cannot continue to collaborate with the Chinese regime and enforce its requests for censorship,’ is nowhere close,” noted Benjamin Ismail, project director for GreatFire’s associated AppleCensorship.com.
Even though Apple has long sought to diversify its supply chain and manufacturing process, with new factories in India and Brazil, the tech giant’s dependence on Chinese factories for the production of most of its latest products, including the iPhone 14, exposes the instability of an already fragile supply chain and production market.
Given the economic and strategic importance of Taiwan, which accounts for over 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing capacity, China’s aggressive policies represent a significant risk for America and the rest of the world.