Apple may find itself eventually shut out of China, a leading expert on global political risk to corporations said Monday.
“It’s very possible,” Ian Bremmer, founder and president of the Eurasia Group, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” a day before the tech giant was scheduled to release quarterly earnings.
“I’d be very surprised in five years’ time if we see Apple having the kind of access to the Chinese consumer that they presently enjoy,” he said.
Bremmer said he could foresee a scenario with Apple having “the kind of issues Facebook presently has in China.” Facebook is banned there.
“I think people misunderstand the nature of the Chinese tech involvement,” Bremmer said, citing the closures in China earlier this month of Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies, just about six months after they were launched.
The New York Times reported last week that Apple had apparently thought it had approval from the Chinese government. But regulators flexed their muscle.
Bremmer said Apple’s overall privacy strategy could further trip up the company in China. “We’re [Apple] going to create it so nobody can have access to your data. It’s just in the cloud. That’s antithetical to everywhere the Chinese want to go,” he said.
“When people start figuring that out, there’s going to be a question, well, are you evaluating iPhone with access to the biggest consumer market in the world or are you not?”
He added: “Either Apple has to change their model, which I don’t think they’re going to do. Or they’re going to have a big problem gaining access to the Chinese consumer.”
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, a leading authority on technology companies, played down Bremmer’s concerns.
“The [Chinese] government has been pushing back on using [the] iPhone for the last couple of years. And the China growth [for Apple] has still been 15 to 100 percent,” Munster told “Squawk Box” on Monday.
Responding to Bremmer, Munster said: “I think they [China] are always going to make it difficult. But I think Apple is going to have a booming business in China.”