Apple Hopes To Resume Service After Shutdown In China

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BEIJING — Apple Inc. said Friday it hopes to resume its online iTunes and iBooks services in China, where they were recently shut down less than seven months after being launched.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Apple's online movie and book stores initially received government approval but were blocked last week on orders from the broadcasting regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Apple said in an emailed statement that it hoped the services could resume "as soon as possible," but offered no details about the shutdown.

Government regulations

The broadcasting regulator has been stretching its authority to online content, which is also regulated by other government agencies and ministries. Calls to the administration's media office rang unanswered Friday.

China is Apple's second largest market after the U.S. and a key driver of its sales growth, with stylish stores selling Apple products now a feature of almost all major cities. In February, the tech giant launched its smartphone-based payment system, Apple Pay, in China, making it the fifth country where the service is offered.

Chinese regulators have been cracking down on a wide range of online content, including blocking popular overseas news, entertainment, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. That's partly to maintain the ruling Communist Party's strict control over media, but also to provide space for Chinese competitors such as search engine baidu, micro-blogging site Weibo and messaging app Weixin.

apple
An Apple logo is reflected on the wet ground outside an Apple Store in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, on Jan. 26, 2016. (Photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters)

China is also eager to promote homegrown phone makers such as Huawei and Xiaomi, and foreign equipment suppliers such as IBM and Cisco have seen some decline in sales because of increased competition from local brands.

President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed the importance of China maintaining its "cyberspace sovereignty" by blocking the free flow of information from outside the country.

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