China has published the country’s first batch of 26 mobile app stores that have submitted business details to regulators, but Apple’s app store is absent from the list.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet regulator, published the list of properly registered “app distribution platforms” on its website on Wednesday. They include platforms run by tech giants Xiaomi, Samsung Electronics, Tencent Holdings, Baidu, Oppo, Vivo and Huawei Technologies. Apple, the fourth-largest smartphone brand in China by shipments in the second quarter, is conspicuously absent.
The other registered platforms include Alipay, the payment platform run by Ant Group, ZTE, Coolpad, Nubia and Lenovo.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The CAC published a regulation in August 2022 asking app distribution platforms – covering app stores and mini program platforms like WeChat – to submit certain information to the authority for “registration”. App stores have a duty to police apps in their stores, according to the regulation, and must refuse to upload apps that “contain illegal or bad information”.
The regulation also stipulates that app stores must cooperate and support “supervision and inspection” from the CAC or other regulators.
In a statement accompanying the published list, the CAC said it does not endorse any platform’s service capabilities or existing apps.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also said in August that failure to register during the period from September to March next year would result in punishment, but it did not specify what penalties might be incurred.
The requirement for mobile app providers to submit business details to the government has raised concerns among some independent Chinese software developers, who expect this move will stifle local innovation and hinder access to overseas software.
The filing process, which can take up to 20 days, prevents local providers from quickly launching an app and improving over time through rapid updates – a common business model – developer Li An, who runs a five-person studio,
Over the past few years, Beijing has tightened internet regulation, seeking to curtail a wide range of content, from online education to video games.
The total number of apps in China – an indicator of the health of the country’s digital economy – has also been declining. Following Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on major internet firms, there were 2.6 million apps operating in China last year, down 25 per cent from the 3.5 million available in 2020. South China Morning Post