China and Apple have a lot in common. They both run “walled garden” operations, hoarding data, secretive and inscrutable about their internal workings; they both clamp down hard on leaks and revolts. They share an economic footprint, where Apple makes iPhones in China and China makes or assembles its myriad parts better and cheaper than anyone else in the world could. They are both authoritarian, and they both operate in bad faith to protect their authority.
Recently, Apple quietly released IOS 16.1.1, but instead of listing specific features and fixes, it released only a terse “This update includes bug fixes and security updates and is recommended for all users.” But users in China noticed their phones had been hobbled.
Hidden in the update was a change that only applies to iPhones sold in mainland China: AirDrop can only be set to receive messages from everyone for 10 minutes, before switching off. There’s no longer a way to keep the “everyone” setting on permanently on Chinese iPhones. The change, first noticed by Chinese readers of 9to5Mac, doesn’t apply anywhere else.
The “everyone” AirDrop mode was used by protesters in China to quickly distribute information phone-to-phone without passing through the censorious infrastructure run by the CCP. Though Apple claims to be heading toward a “global standard” to disable permanent “everyone” mode in 2023, Bloomberg reported, they certainly timed this undisclosed update to help China enforce its crackdown.
The protesters have few tools available to them. Apple frequently helps China’s authoritarian government by disabling, removing, or otherwise compromising features in its phones. China’s “Great Firewall” is as complete a walled garden as any nation the size and breadth of the world’s second biggest economy could muster. The CCP’s security forces are ready to use overwhelming force to tamp down dissent.
China’s president Xi Jinping has made himself, apparently, leader for life, remaking the CCP in his own image, and filled with his loyalists. He has focused on “zero COVID,” a public health vector, as his latest ploy to keep absolute control of China’s population. This despite the head of the UN’s WHO claiming the policy is unsustainable.
It’s against this state of seemingly permanent lockdown that protests have taken root. The people smell bad faith in their government, which is behaving less and less like a disciplinarian father, and more like a power-crazed tyrant. Toward the rest of the world, the Chinese government oozes bad faith. And Apple has been there with it, enabling and coddling that behavior.
This is not to say Apple is the only perpetrator of China duality. Disney has notoriously bowed to CCP pressure. A devastating report by Harvard International Review detailed how Disney has a long history of censoring its films so as not to offend China’s communist government. Its streaming service quietly omitted an episode of The Simpsons that dealt with Tiananmen Square from its Hong Kong market.
The CCP has enacted laws allowing it to control, or fine, tech firms that don’t share data with the government. The popular video sharing site TikTok’s data, despite company denials, is firmly in the hands of China’s authorities. One opinion writer, in The Hill, concluded “TikTok is China’s Trojan horse.”
“The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China.” — FBI Director Christopher Wray.
That Apple, in a disingenuous and freedom-hindering move, would sabotage the efforts of brave Chinese protesters, is terribly bad faith and unbecoming of a company that claims to be an American icon.
But along with the bad faith, there’s good faith rising in China. Freedom is something tangible that China’s people can taste as their economic fortunes grow. There’s a hidden secret force that’s growing in China that will, one day, bring a new light and liberty to end the age of oppression.
While Christianity declines in the rich, disconnected West, in China, where it is ruthlessly persecuted, the Gospel’s influence continues to grow. Asia Harvest reports there are now more than 100 million practicing Christians in China, with some provinces well above 50% Christian.
And the growth rate continues to increase. Between 1949, when the communists took over, to 1992, the number of Christians grew from 1.3 million to nearly 10 million. From 1992 to 2004/05, this number doubled to 20 million. In 2020, they estimate nearly 110 million, and by 2030 that could double again, meaning China will have more Christians than any nation in the world.
As Christianity booms, communism ages. Since 2013, the percent of CCP members under 35 years old has been fairly steady, at 22-24%. But the share of members over 60 has increased from 23 to 27 percent, according to Statista. CCP’s ruling body, the Politburo, has always had an unofficial retirement age of 67. But this rule seems to have been ignored in the latest party congress, where more members are over 55, and Xi, who is 69, has given himself another 5 years. Many of the party leaders are well advanced in their late 60s.
The young are energized and bold in their protests and yearning for freedom. The older generation is entrenched and unflinching in its commitment to cling to power. One generation wraps itself in bad faith, and encourages foreign companies, institutions, and politicians to share that bad faith, as Apple has freely done.
But waiting in the wings is the good faith growing in China, ready to push out the old and usher in a real, authentic Christianity that’s not tied to politics, right or left, promoting baubles of fake prosperity, bashing favorite sins while protecting its own secret sin—i.e. how the American church misfunctions right now. The Christianity growing in China is born of persecution and trust. When it blooms, the leaders it produces could propel that nation into a beacon of everything it’s currently not.
When that happens—if it does—and we live to see it, we will learn how transparently bad our own faith in the companies and politics we love has been.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
The First TV contributor network is a place for vibrant thought and ideas. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of The First or The First TV. We want to foster dialogue, create conversation, and debate ideas. See something you like or don’t like? Reach out to the author or to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.