China’s zero COVID policy isolated the nation for nearly three years and caused businesses to flee. One of the steepest losses occurred when Apple halted the production of the iPhone 14 in China. If you recall, Foxconn, once the largest iPhone producer in the world, underwent a lengthy lockdown in November 2022. In response, Apple moved a portion of its manufacturing to India and Vietnam.
In October, before the lockdown, Foxconn produced 85% of iPhone Pros. Apple experienced its steepest quarterly revenue decline in half a decade, and the company blamed China for causing production delays. Anti-China sentiment was also a factor, as cheap labor could be found elsewhere without the false label of being a “Chinese company.” However, departing from China cannot happen overnight.
China Premier Li Qiang is now attempting to stop Apple from gradually exiting China. Beijing plans to host the China Development Forum, often called “China’s Davos,” and has extended an invitation to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Aljazeera reported that attendees of this year’s event include US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Procter & Gamble Chief Executive Jon Moeller, PwC Global Chairperson Bob Moritz, and HSBC Chief Executive Noel Quinn.
China’s growth target for 2023 sits at 5%, which is unusually low for the second-largest economy. Cook has already made a visit to China ahead of the summit and expressed optimism that the supply chain issues could be repaired. Losing Apple completely would be detrimental to China’s economy and image. Time will tell how China can navigate US sanctions and retain the business it lost under the zero COVID policy.