The Chinese Government has forced Apple to remove Meta’s WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China due to national security concerns, the iPhone maker said on Friday (19 April).

Apple’s removal of the applications highlights China’s pushback against some foreign messaging systems that fall out of its control. 

It is unclear how Meta’s messaging applications may have highlighted security concerns for China’s authorities.

According to Reuters, other Western-owned applications such as X and YouTube remained available.

“The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns. We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” an Apple spokesperson said.

Messaging applications Telegram and Signal were also removed from the App Store in China on Friday. 

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None of the four messaging applications are used widely in the country due to foreign applications usually being blocked. 

China’s ‘Great Firewall’ stops citizens from accessing foreign applications outside of a private network or proxy tool. 

In March, it was reported that Apple held initial talks with Chinese tech giant Baidu about using the company’s GenAI in its devices in China.

The news followed reports that Apple deployed Alphabet-owned Google‘s Gemini AI models on every iPhone.

Investors previously voiced concerns about Apple’s stance in the GenAI race, which has been dominated by Microsoft since its partnership with OpenAI. 

Apple is reportedly in active negotiations to use Google’s Gemini AI models to drive its new AI features, which will be fitted into iPhone software in late 2024. 

Apple has reportedly held similar talks with Microsoft-backed ChatGPT-maker OpenAI. A decision is not likely to be made before June, around the time Apple holds its developer conference.