Apple ordered to shut down iBooks and iTunes Movie sales in China

Only six months after Apple began selling iBooks and iTunes Movies in China, the company has now been ordered by a Chinese Government agency to shut down sales, The New York Times reports. Although Apple originally had the Chinese government’s approval to introduce the services, a government regulatory agency — the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — stepped in last week and demanded the services be shut down.

While Apple has been unusually successful in introducing new products into the Chinese market, this about-face could be a sign of future problems brewing in China, which is Apple’s second-largest market.
Notably, Apple’s iBooks and iTunes Movies services compete directly with products from Chinese Internet companies, suggesting the move may also be a result of recent initiatives from Beijing to boost the Chinese economy that are focusing more on Internet-related industries, which could affect other Apple services such as Apple Pay, with competes with mobile payment systems from the Chinese-based Alibaba and Tencent. In addition to the economic considerations, censorship may also be a factor in light of the Chinese government’s long history of policing the content that is available to the Chinese people.

Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted a meeting on Tuesday regarding China’s restrictive Internet policies, with several of the country’s top tech leaders in attendance, where he was reported “China must improve management of cyberspace and work to ensure high-quality content with positive voices creating a healthy, positive culture that is a force for good.” Apple’s only official statement on the matter was simply that “We hope to make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible.”