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Apple's iPhone 12 livestream was noticeably missing from Chinese social media

The reason for the sudden withdrawal hasn't been spelled out.

China is a huge market for Apple.
Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's livestream of its iPhone 12 launch event last week wasn't carried by China's top social media and video platforms despite tremendous consumer interest in the event. In an unprecedented move, Tencent Video, Weibo, iQiyi and Bilibili canceled their original plans to carry the livestream, though Apple fans could watch it directly on the company's website, according to a Bloomberg report

Apple had promoted the event on its official Weibo account last week, sharing that the livestream was set to air on all those platforms, the report said. Weibo is a Chinese microblogging site often compared to Twitter, even though the Chinese government maintains strict control over what appears on any China-based media or internet site. 

The cancellation comes at a time of tense geopolitical relations between Washington and Beijing, and it underscores the challenges Apple faces in making further inroads in the crucial mainland China market.  

US President Donald Trump has been waging a years-long pressure campaign against China-based tech companies. In September, Trump moved to ban wildly popular Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat over concerns of user data collection and surveillance. Prior to that, US security concerns about China's tech industry had primarily focused on telecom gear maker Huawei, which could face the collapse of its smartphone division due to US restrictions on its global chip supply.

Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

This week's cancellation marks the first time that China's video platforms have jointly canceled an iPhone livestream since they began airing them several years ago. The events generate tremendous interest in China, which is Apple's third largest market by sales, and the word "iPhone 12" has been a trending topic on Weibo.

"I vividly remember they hire simultaneous translators and commentators in order to get maximum attraction at midnight," Bloomberg reporter Gao Yuan wrote on Twitter. "No more."

Now playing: Watch this: Our in-depth review of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro

Although Apple has a sizable fan base in China, the company's market share has shrunk in recent years due to stiff competition from Chinese brands that have increasingly released higher-end Android phones that rival the iPhone. Chinese phone makers like Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo released premium 5G phones in their native China months before Apple unveiled its 5G-enabled iPhone 12 family.

Tencent Video, Weibo, iQiyi, and Bilibili could not be immediately reached for comment.