China's Apple Smear Campaign Has Totally Backfired

The Atlantic

After three straight days of anti-Apple articles in China's state run newspaper People's Daily and an anti-Apple broadcast last week on China's state run TV station and beyond, well, China's propaganda push is having unintended effects, making the government look like the enemy in a fight it keeps on picking. Indeed, following last week's alleged scandal that tied the ongoing smear campaign — it centers on what the government sees as a problem with Apple replacing broken iPhones with refurbished ones, rather than fixing them — to Chinese celebrities saying bad things about Apple customer service, the latest story in the country's main paper, titled "Smash Apple's 'Incomparable' Arrogance," has flipped the script: There's now an ongoing discussion about the most arrogant Chinese state-run companies, according to China Real Time Report's Paul Mozur. When the financial magazine Cajing asked "As a consumer, which arrogant company or companies do you want to smash?" hundreds "named a handful of state-owned monopolies," including People's Daily. And that's just a slice of the outrage directed at China for its imbalanced portrayal of Apple.

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One of this week's editorials from People's Daily, which continue to bash Apple's supposedly terrible customer service and warranty practices, got passed around Weibo, mostly by Chinese iPhone users bashing the paper. "We ordinary people feel that Apple is good and the government is trash. There's obviously an implemented warranty policy, why must [Apple] be treated differently?" wrote one person on the Twitter of China, according to Reuters's Melanie Lee. So it would seem that Chinese Apple fans suspect an ulterior motive: "Do you wish to transfer our focus? Get the ordinary people to curse and blame useless things? There's toxic air, toxic water and tainted milk," wrote another Weibo user. "We are not fools!"

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That scenario isn't too hard to believe: The propaganda onslaught might have something to do with Apple's recent big China push. Since Tim Cook took over as CEO, he has made a concerted effort to increase the company's presence in the country, doubling the amount of stores and increasing sales. Chinese handset makers, like Huawei, sill dominate the market. But with a rumored cheaper iPhone on its way out of Cupertino and targeting markets like China, the Chinese government probably doesn't want to take any chances.  

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Unfortunately, the aggressive anti-Apple campaigning is a bit too transparent. And that signature Apple brand loyalty might just be too strong. "Apple has come out relatively unscathed in this situation because consumers have had largely positive experiences with the brand," a Chinese consumer analyst told Reuters. 

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