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Apple pulled the New York Times app in China, showing just how much power that country has over tech firms

The iPhone maker has little choice in the matter.

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Apple’s store in Shanghai
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If you want to do business in China, you have to play by its rules.

In case U.S. companies needed a reminder, China has served up a bold one in requiring Apple to pull down the New York Times app from its Chinese App Store.

Neither Apple nor China publicly specified what local laws the newspaper was breaking, but Apple said it was notified that the app had run afoul of the country’s rules.

“For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations,” Apple said in a statement. “As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.”

Apple declined to comment beyond the statement, however, refusing to say what form the government request took, when it was received or what law the Times’ apps are said to have violated.

Google has notably opted not to do certain business in China, but other U.S. tech firms including Yahoo and Microsoft have found the market too big to ignore, forcing them to do all manner of unpleasant things, including providing user information on dissidents.

And for Apple, China is huge. It’s one of the biggest markets for all manner of products, including iPhones and the App Store, as well as the place where nearly all of its goods are manufactured. Last quarter, the Greater China region accounted for nearly a fifth of Apple’s $46.8 billion in revenue.

The New York Times already has its website blocked by Chinese censors, but a redesigned iOS app allowed customers to bypass the firewall. The New York Times said in its article on the issue that the app will continue to work for those that have it, but that new users will have to find a way to get the app from another country’s App Store (which typically requires having a foreign credit card).

The newspaper criticized Apple’s move and asked the company to reconsider its decision.

“This is a deeply regrettable decision,” a New York Times representative said in a statement. “The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country — coverage which is no different from the journalism we do about every other country in the world, including the United States.”

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