China’s PLA bans wearables amidst cybersecurity lockdown

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Little did one new recruit know that his attempt to take a picture of fellow PLA comrades in East China with his newly gifted smartphone watch (brand unidentified, though we have one guess) would result in a nation-wide ban on smartwatches in the military sector.

Watches are not the only forbidden gadget, however. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, China’s military newspaper issued a report stating, “the use of wearables with Internet access, location information and voice-calling functions should be considered a violation of confidential regulations when used by military personnel,” effectively banning smart glasses, bands, and all other wearable tech.

The ban comes amidst China’s recent push towards strengthening cybersecurity, earlier this year laying out regulations that would require foreign companies selling computer equipment to “turn over secret source code, submit to invasive audits and build so-called back doors into hardware and software,” a fact that left western tech companies less than happy.

“The moment a soldier puts on a device that can record high-definition audio and video, take photos, and process and transmit data, it’s very possible for him or her to be tracked or to reveal military secrets,” the PLA explained.

Though finger-pointing concerning cyber-hacking and spying between the United States and China is nothing new, the question of whether the ban is more a result of the nation’s beef with Apple or a true extension of similar military restrictions across the world is an interesting one.

On the one hand, China is currently driving record sales of the iPhone. On the other, a Chinese TV Anchor was recently put in the hot seat when she was shown wearing an Apple Watch while delivering her news report, receiving comments on the internet that maintained “official media should appear thrifty.”

Despite this backlash, let’s hope that the military remains the only workplace in China where wearables are forbidden.

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