Users of Apple devices in China may have once had the expectation that they could store their data with the cloud storage offered by this Western company outside of the Chinese regime’s surveillance. In fact, their private data will soon be hosted by a company owned by the Chinese state, with intimate links to the People’s Liberation Army—uncomfortable facts the U.S. company has not told the millions of Chinese users of its devices.
According to a number of Chinese business information websites, the 3-year-old company GCBD is registered as being fully owned by the Guizhou Economic and Information Technology Committee, which is a part of the Guizhou Provincial People’s Government. Nominally, the committee is subordinate to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the State Council at the national level.
The committee, however, also goes by another official name—the “National Defense Industry Working Committee of Guizhou Provincial Party Committee” [of the Chinese Communist Party]. The practice of having two official names for one physical office is common across all levels of China’s civilian governments and Party apparatus, as the Chinese Communist Party asserts its power and control through such a mechanism. In this arrangement, the Party organization always calls the shots.
The exact functions of the National Defense Industry Working Committee are anyone’s guess; experts say that in one way or another it links back to China’s military. Officially, the committee and similar organs across various provinces of China are responsible for supervising the Chinese regime’s massive military-industrial complex used to equip and maintain the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Ying-Yu Lin, a professor at the Institute of Strategy and International Affairs at Taiwan’s National Chung Cheng University, said that there is a definitive link between such a committee and the PLA. GCBD will more than likely give the PLA every access it desires within Apple’s iCloud servers in China, Ying-Yu said.
The words “civil-military integration” were mentioned a total of 83 times in Wang Jian’s interview, which he described as part of the broader Chinese regime policy to facilitate the flow of resources, data, and technologies from China’s civilian sphere into the military.
Ying-Yu Lin said that such statements from Chinese regime officials further confirm the connection between the PLA and GCBD, the company that is now getting control of all the private iCloud data stored by Chinese users of Apple devices.
The Chinese regime and the PLA are not just after the private data of Chinese Apple users, Lin said, but they could also be seeking technology behind Apple’s iCloud, which they could then use to empower PLA’s own battlefield management platforms, especially in areas related to cloud computing.