Apple Removes WhatsApp and Threads from China App Store on Security Grounds

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has confirmed removing Meta’s (NASDAQ: META) WhatsApp messaging app and its Threads social media app from the App Store in China, complying with directives from Chinese authorities. The apps were removed on Friday due to unspecified national security concerns raised by Chinese officials, amid ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China concerning trade, technology, and national security. While the U.S. has previously considered banning TikTok due to similar concerns, WhatsApp and Threads are not widely used in China, where the messaging app WeChat dominates the market. Despite the availability of other Meta-owned apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, the use of foreign apps is restricted in China by the country’s “Great Firewall” network of filters, which blocks access to platforms such as Google and Facebook.

Apple released a statement confirming the removal of the apps, citing, “The Cyberspace Administration of China directed the removal of these apps from the China storefront due to national security concerns.” The company underscored its dedication to complying with local regulations, even amidst differing viewpoints. Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp and Threads, has not provided immediate comments on the matter.

Apple, which recently lost its position as the world’s top smartphone maker to Korean rival Samsung Electronics, has faced challenges in China, one of its key markets. Sales have declined after Chinese government entities and state-owned company employees were instructed not to use Apple devices for work. As a result, Apple has been diversifying its manufacturing bases outside of China.

CEO Tim Cook has been engaging with Southeast Asian leaders during his recent travels to Hanoi, Jakarta, and Singapore. In Singapore, Cook met with Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong to discuss Apple’s partnership with the country and its commitment to conducting business there. Apple has pledged to invest over $250 million to expand its campus in Singapore. During his visit to Vietnam, Cook met with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, expressing Apple’s intention to increase spending on Vietnamese suppliers. Additionally, Cook met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, where they discussed Widodo’s plans to promote manufacturing in Indonesia, a matter that Apple expressed interest in exploring further.