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How Apple Grew Closer to China By Turning ‘Little Foxconn’ Into a National Champion

To cut costs and curry favor with Beijing, Apple has increasingly hired Chinese electronics manufacturers to build its products. That’s helped domestic firms like Luxshare grab market share from Taiwanese rivals. But as Western tech brands work with more Chinese suppliers, they risk being connected to human rights abuses in China or caught up in the country’s economic battle with the U.S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at an AirPods production line with Luxshare CEO Grace Wang (standing behind Cook) in 2017. Photos by Bloomberg; Shutterstock; Luxshare. Art by Mike Sullivan
Apple CEO Tim Cook at an AirPods production line with Luxshare CEO Grace Wang (standing behind Cook) in 2017. Photos by Bloomberg; Shutterstock; Luxshare. Art by Mike Sullivan
Dec. 30, 2021 6:00 AM PST

If you’ve used an iPhone 13, an Apple Watch or AirPods, chances are you’ve touched the handiwork of Luxshare, which assembles them. Over the past decade, it became the biggest Chinese manufacturer of consumer electronics.

Luxshare got to this vaunted position because of Apple. For more than a decade Apple has been sending its engineers to teach managers at Luxshare and other Chinese firms how to build its industry-leading products, infusing them with priceless knowledge, according to interviews with nearly 20 current and former Luxshare and Apple employees and partners. It’s no coincidence that Luxshare’s rise is also part of Beijing’s ambition to develop homegrown electronics and manufacturing so it won’t have to rely on foreign-owned companies.

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