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“When Qualcomm, Donald Trump's little protégé, asks China to arbitrate its conflict with Apple”

A court in Fuzhou City ordered the ban on iPhone sales in China. The two American champions of high-tech have become very dependent on the Middle Kingdom, says Philippe Escande, economic editorialist in the “World”.

By Philippe Escande Posted today at 11h27, updated at 11h27

Time to Reading 2 min.

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Apple logo in a mall in Beijing, May 8. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

Losses & profits. The trade war between China and the United States sometimes takes unusual turns. While Beijing sounds the alarm against the arrest by Canadian authorities, at the request of the United States, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the founder of Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, a court in the city of Fuzhou ruled the conflict between two tenors of American technology. Following the action taken by Californian chip maker Qualcomm, he has condemned the king, also Californian smartphone, Apple, to stop the sale in China of most of its iPhone models. Strange situation. The enemy is asked to arbitrate a dispute between two of his principal generals. As if a London court had been summoned to settle a quarrel between two marshals of Napoleon.

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The case is potentially serious since China is Apple's first foreign market and accounts for 20% of its sales. The company, which appealed the decision, downplayed the scope of the injunction by stating that it did not affect the most recent devices and that the incriminated software no longer exists in the equipment currently on sale. The fact remains that this sentence is all the more strange as it concerns what is at the heart of the quarrel between Americans and Chinese: telecoms.

Cross interests

In March 2018, President Donald Trump blocked the purchase of the same Qualcomm by his competitor Broadcom on the grounds that the latter, although of US origin, was too close to Beijing. The White House has seized the fifth generation of mobile telephony, 5G, to erect it as a symbol of its struggle against the new Chinese imperialism. Hence his perseverance against Huawei, which has become, in twenty years, the world leader in mobile phones and the most technologically advanced company. Washington suspects the company, founded by a former engineer of the People's Army, to use his network equipment for espionage purposes for the benefit of his country.

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It is therefore the little protégé of Donald Trump who comes to seek the judgment of the good coastal city of Fuzhou, located between Shanghai and Canton, facing the nationalist island of Taiwan. It will not be possible to say after that that American companies are distinguished by their patriotic character. The reality is obviously more complex. Qualcomm and Apple, along with Intel, are the three companies that have benefited the most from the opening of China and the development of its domestic market. Their sales growth is two to three times higher than in the United States or Europe.

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