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Amid protests at Apple’s biggest iPhone plant in China, India expects to be iPhone manufacturing hub

The world’s biggest Apple iPhone factory in the central city of Zhengzhou China, is virtually under siege amid rising Covid-19 cases in the country. Thousands of people in masks were seen facing the wrath of the police as they were opposing the fresh Covid restrictions imposed in this industrial region to save the people from catching this deadly infection. However, employees were also said to be protesting unspecified contract violations. In recent months, Apple supplier- Foxconn Technology Group simply struggled to produce the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max at its enormous Zhengzhou factory following a spike in Covid infections, forcing it to shutter this massive factory earlier this month.

However, headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, Foxconn – the factory operator, said it was using closed-loop management, which means employees working in the factory, are living at their workplace only with no outside contact. Last month too, there was a walk-out by thousands of employees over complaints of various natures including inadequate anti-virus protection.

29,157 infections new cases reported

China, the second largest economy of the world, is confronting surging fresh Covid cases in several parts of the country, which signal more distress for the world economy also in this globalised system of economic operations. According to the National Health Commission of China, 29,157 infections were reported nationwide on Wednesday for the previous day, which is close to April’s peak.

Hopes fade for quick exits from restrictions

Due to the rising Covid cases in several parts of the country, hopes have now faded for quick exits from country’s draconian zero-Covid policies. In the month of October too, fresh restrictions had been imposed more than once. China had also imposed fresh lockdowns and travel restrictions amidst that surge in cases.

Two new subvariants of Omicron

In October, China reported the detection of two new subvariants of Omicron which are highly infectious with greater transmissibility. According to local reports, the BF.7 was detected on October 4 in Yantai and Shaoguan city. The subvariant BA.5.1.7 was detected in the Chinese mainland for the first time. Earlier, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned against the highly infectious BF.7 subvariant.

New iPhone 14 model may be delayed

Before this fresh violent protests happened in the central city of Zhengzhou, Apple Inc. had warned that deliveries of its new iPhone 14 model may be delayed due to the Covid related restrictions imposed on this factory. Foxconn, reportedly, employs around 200,000 people here. Taking measures to check the Covid spread, the city government has suspended access to this industrial zone which surrounds the factory, which has further angered the employees.

Shanghai was also under punishing lockdown

In April, due to the rising Covid cases, Shanghai was under a punishing lockdown, giving rise to food shortages in the city. Those restrictions had also prompted rare displays of social unrest in the city and elsewhere, and videos of those protests went viral across the globe.

During this ongoing protest in Zhengzhou, a footage shared online, displays people smashing surveillance cameras and windows, pulling down barriers and angrily arguing with security and other officials. Earlier too, Foxconn workers complained of food shortages and draconian quarantine rules at the work place.

Half of the cases are asymptomatic

Half of the new cases, classified as asymptomatic, have been reported from Guangzhou and Chongqing, which are mega-cities in southern and central China, respectively. In Guangzhou, a five-day lockdown started on Monday amid rising Covid cases. The southwestern city of Chengdu has also started a new round of mass testing to check the menace, which has been interrupting and disestablishing life in several parts of the globe for around three years.

Schools are shuttered in Beijing

In the capital city of Beijing, schools have been shuttered and testing requirements strengthened. Fresh restrictions have also been imposed on public movements in and out of the city. Smaller outbreaks have also been reported in several other parts of the country, which threaten normal life and economic activities. Owing to successive Covid outbreaks, confidence among foreign and private firms are said to remain lukewarm as repeated Covid lockdowns have virtually derailed the economic activities in the country.

India is well-positioned to reap the benefit

Foxconn is also manufacturing Apple iPhones at its Sriperumbudur factory on the outskirts of Chennai since 2017. India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, has been in great demand in recent years, especially among mobile manufacturers. Industry analysts estimate, Apple may turn India into a global iPhone manufacturing hub by 2025 as the company is slowly cutting its reliance on China due to several reasons including stringent Covid related policies. Foxconn is expected to expand its manufacturing capacity in India to produce 25% of all iPhones by 2025.

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