The iOS 16.1.1 update Apple rolled out in China came with something extra that wasn't included in the release for other regions. According to Bloomberg, it limits the window of time a user can receive files via AirDrop from non-contacts to 10 minutes. Prior to this change, people can choose to get AirDrops from everyone indefinitely.
As the news organization notes, activists and protesters in China have been using AirDrop as a way to circumvent the country's online censorship measures. It was widely used during Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests to share images of police brutality. More recently, protesters have been using it to spread messages opposing the Chinese government and denouncing Xi Jinping's rule. By limiting the "everyone" option, users are less likely to receive messages from random protesters. They will, after all, have to reactivate the option after every few minutes.
This isn't the first the time Apple has introduced a feature — or, in this case, a restriction — exclusive to a certain region. That said, the tech giant has been criticized in the past for complying with rules meant to limit dissent in China and for implementing changes that would ensure it stays in the Chinese government's good graces. Apple was previously accused of handing over some of its data centers in the country to Chinese authorities. More recently, the company reportedly told Taiwanese suppliers to ensure that parts bound for the mainland don't come with "Made in Taiwan" labels. Instead, their source should be noted down as "Chinese Taipei" or "Taiwan, China."
While Apple didn't tell Bloomberg why the limitation was introduced in the country, it told the organization that it won't remain a Chinese exclusive. It reportedly plans to roll out the new setting to all users around the world next year to "mitigate unwanted file sharing."