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Apple-backed think tank calls for radical changes to Chinese economic policy

A Washington think tank — with board members from Apple, Amazon, Google and other tech firms — on Thursday called for an international coalition to pressure China into changing course on some of its economic policies.

"America cannot respond with either flaccid appeasement or economic nationalism; it must assemble an international coalition that pressures China to stop rigging markets and start competing on fair terms," the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation wrote, according to Reuters. The organization complained that three previous U.S. administrations had "failed" to engage Chinese officials, and that China is more resistant to pressure now since it's less economically dependent on the U.S.

ITIF called for the coalition to include Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., the U.S., and the European Union. It also suggest that U.S. President Donald Trump should focus on trade issues with China, not Mexico, although it warned that the Chinese government could punish American firms in retaliation.

A focal point of criticism is believed to be the Chinese government's "Made in China 2025" program, which is intended to ramp up the number of domestically-made products across 10 different industries. One target includes growing the number of local parts used in tech to 70 percent, through a combination of measures like subsidies, standards, policies, and government-backed investment funds.

Another issue is control over data, since in June new laws will require "critical information infrastructure operators" to store personal and business data in China, as well as offer "technical support" to security agencies, and submit themselves to national security reviews.

Opposing the data laws is likely of special interest to Apple, since the company has adopted tough privacy stances elsewhere, and might have to build new infrastructure to comply. It has also dealt with online store closures and repeated censorship efforts.

To reach the lucrative Chinese market, though, Apple has appeased the government in some ways, for instance by keeping ads out of critical publications.

Parts may also be a relevant issue since while many of Apple's suppliers are already Chinese, others are based in places like Japan and South Korea — some of those firms could be pushed out of the supply chain.