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China refutes that it accused Apple products of posing security concerns

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Mark Lennihan/AP

(Read caption) The Apple logo is illuminated in the entrance to the Fifth Avenue Apple store in New York City.

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In what seems to be the latest in a series of he-said-she-said battles between China and the tech giant Apple, China has refuted a Bloomberg News report from earlier this week that stated that the Chinese government had omitted a series of 10 Apple products from the final government procurement list distributed in July. This would have meant no government money would be used to purchase these products, which included the Macbook Air, MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPad Mini, because they could have posed security concerns, according to the report, citing "officials familiar with the matter."

But according to a Friday report from Reuters, these Apple products have not in fact been excluded from the procurement list. Rather, Apple never actually applied to be on the list, the report states, citing the Central Government Procurement Center. 

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Apparently, the list in question includes a series of energy-saving products and is only one of many procurement lists, the report states, adding that Apple has not previously been on the list in the past. 

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Moreover, The Wall Street Journal, citing the independent Chinese news agency Caixin, noted that it's not uncommon for foreign companies to be excluded from this list, "which would not be the case if there were security concerns." Reuters seemed to confirm this statement, explaining that this past week most of the Apple products originally mentioned in the report were still available on the Central Government Procurement Centre website. The only alteration, the report notes, was a brief halt in sales so that the government could make a standard monthly price adjustment. 

"Every month we have one price adjustment to make sure the prices are aligned with market prices," a person familiar with the procurement process told Reuters. "We'll stop purchases and then restart after they're aligned."

Taken in a different light, remaining on the procurement list could be seen as a positive for Apple, which saw its iPad sales decline in its third-quarter sales from the same time last year. 

Still, this back-and-forth between China and the consumer electronics giant comes only weeks after Chinese state media accused a feature on the Apple iPhone of posing a national security threat because it could potentially reveal important state secretes. Apple subsequently refuted those allegations and Chinese media seemed to temper its initial accusations. 

It marks yet another example of the difficulty faced by US technology companies operating in China in the wake of revelations made by Edward Snowden last year.

"U.S. companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. are all coordinating with the PRISM program to monitor China," official Chinese media reported in June, singling out one of the US spying programs leaked by Mr. Snowden. 

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More recently, Microsoft has become embroiled in an antitrust investigation in China. 


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