Yesterday Apple complied with legislation requiring it to remove VPN apps from the Chinese version of the App Store and in doing so impedes the fight for free, uncontrolled access to the internet from behind The Great Firewall Of China.
Apple's options were limited. Had it failed to comply it risked having its products removed from sale in a hugely important market. Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The outcome here demonstrates just how easy it is going to be for almost any other nation to get Apple to give up its user's security. Pass a legislation making those protections illegal and then offer Apple two options, comply or leave the market.
It isn't so much about secure access or device encryption, which any platform owner or OEM can be forced to give up. It's more the effect of the App Store, which is the exclusive method for deploying apps to iOS. With no sideloading all governments need to do is control the App Store to control the platform. For Android and Windows phone users there is the option to sideload apps to get around any central restrictions.
Security and control. Apple's desire to protect user's devices has been tested by China and found to be a lower priority than continuing to sell devices in China.
We know Apple can remotely remove apps from customers iOS devices, I wonder if this will be the next request the Chinese government makes of the company.