Foreign Policy Magazine

THE MANUFACTURER’S DILEMMA

To secure itself, the West needs to figure out where all its gadgets are coming from. Here’s why that’s so difficult.

On the outside, the iPhone looks like the pinnacle of cool Californian tech. Open it up, however, and the device seems a lot less American. Its components might have been designed in the United States, but they’re assembled in China, as are a dizzying range of other popular products: televisions, sneakers, even drones and defense equipment. That fact creates a glaring security threat—one that Western firms and governments are only now beginning to tackle.

Using Chinese suppliers seems to make good economic sense for Western firms. After all, Chinese labor remains very cheap: Such work accounts for just $10 of the total cost of an iPhone today (top models of which go for more than $1,000). That’s why, according to a recent tally by the Economist, “of the production facilities operated by Apple’s top 200 suppliers, 357 are in China,” while just 63

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Foreign Policy Magazine

Foreign Policy Magazine3 min readTech
The Oldest Game
INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE is as ancient as industry itself—and a frequent accomplice to the rise of empires. From classical Greek cities to modern U.S. corporations, the theft of trade secrets has marked a transfer of power almost as routinely as bloodshe
Foreign Policy Magazine2 min read
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster ADAM HIGGINBOTHAM, SIMON & SCHUSTER, 560 PP., $29.95, FEBRUARY 2019 IN THE LATE 1970S, at the height of the Cold War, a new city sprung up near the border of Ukraine a
Foreign Policy Magazine5 min read
The Case Against Frugal Innovation
Jugaad once symbolized India’s potential, but the endless shortcuts are now holding the country back.