[UPDATE] Tim Cooked issued an official apology to Chinese consumers, laying out a few return policy changes. But many netizens also pointed out that the apology was released on the night of April Fool’s Day in China…just saying. Click for the full version of the letter in Chinese.
Ever wondered about the meaning of the bite on Apple’s logo? Try this theory from Liu Junhai, special commentator at China Central Television (CCTV) and law professor at the Renmin University of China (one of China’s best universities):
“I noticed that Apple has a missing part on its logo. I think the missing part is Apple’s deep understanding of China’s ‘Law on Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests’, and its gratitude to the Chinese consumers.”
This is but one of a series of campaigns against Apple by China’s state media. On March 15, during its annual consumer rights show, CCTV picked up Apple as its major target and accused it of offering downgraded custom services to Chinese consumer through discriminatory return policies. Though the accusation backfired after netizens found out that online celebrities may be paid to badmouth Apple, the spin against Apple never stopped. For about two weeks now, headline news on People’s Daily and CCTV have been blasting the tech giant’s “unparalleled arrogance.”
To law professor Liu Junhai, such arrogance stems from an assertion that China doesn’t have proper law to protect its consumers. Liu’s commentary on Apple’s logo soon became headlines like “What’s bitten off of Apple’s logo is conscience”, and was immediately heavily mocked by Chinese netizens, many of whom are Apple fans.
Some netizens made fun of Liu himself: “I noticed that professor Liu has one missing part. I think the missing part is his brain.” Others were simple having fun: “I noticed that Audi has a missing circle on its logo. I think the missing circle shows Audi’s lack of understanding of the Olympic spirit, and lack of motivation to be higher, faster and stronger.”
At the heart of the argument is whether Apple provides downgraded return polices in China. Some reports have showed that Apple has exactly the same return and repair policies in China as in the US, which is a 1-year warranty on defective hardware. However, some netizens also pointed out that China’s law does set that all computer products must have at least a 2-year warranty, and that Apple did abide a similar 2-year warranty require in the European Union.
But…no one, at least not many of Chinese netizens, care about the legal question. What they care about is why China’s state media is going after Apple, because the scenario looks very similar.
Back in 2009, China’s state media was after another global tech giant, Google, accusing it of featuring pornographic content in its search results. Google was asked to houseclean porn results and apologize. Not long after, Google pulled its search service out of mainland China.
Many netizens, among them, Kai-fu Lee, former head of Google China, asked: “Do they aim for something similar for Apple?”
There are also netizens who suspected that the move was a strike back at the US’ hostility towards Chinese tech companies like Huawei or ZTE. When news broke that US law restricts government purchases of Chinese IT equipment, many Chinese netizens found their Aha! moment: “You stabbed me in the back. I slap you in the face.”
So far, Apple has not lost its flare among Chinese consumers, but nationalism has always been a good card in the hands of Chinese government.