But there’s now a scandal brewing over Apple’s warranty and repair policy, and concern that Chinese consumers are being given a rough ride.
In a recent interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said China will soon become Apple’s biggest market.
For Apple, business must stay business
Apple Inc has been having a hard time in China since China Central Television (CCTV) revealed on March 15 that the technology giant allegedly applies a different service policy to Chinese consumers than in other countries and regions. A wave of onslaught has surged in Chinese State media in the past few days, with Chinese authorities ordering the company to change its policies or face punishment according to Chinese regulations.
However, many Chinese fans have shown their loyalty toward Apple, allying with some foreign media outlets in saying that this is a "well-coordinated" campaign led by the Chinese government to pinch the US company. It is also said that Apple is merely the victim of China's vengeance against the US government's treatment of Chinese telecom giants. China's Huawei and ZTE have long been restricted in the US markets under security and other accusations.
The drama began as a typical business incident, as CCTV did not only point its finger at Apple in its March 15 exposé. It is no good for either side that the issue is gradually turning political.
Generally speaking, CCTV's annual showcase program on World Consumer Rights Day has played a positive role in digging out business scandals. It is also the reason why the program has remained influential among Chinese viewers for a long time.
Had Apple been more sincere in its response to the criticism, the result could have been different. The statement Apple made right after the CCTV exposé was very different with that of other multinational companies who were also reported to have consumer rights issues. With the sheer weight of the company behind it, Apple's detached tone could easily be seen as proof of arrogance.
Apple has won respect from Chinese consumers with its perseverance in developing leading technologies and styles. But the company is not impeccable. Like its continuing stride in exploring for technological breakthroughs, the company also needs to keep working hard to raise its service quality.
Apple should not follow the media speculation and consider itself the target of political persecution. As for its fans in China, if they do love this brand, they should let the truth emerge instead of joining the speculations.
If the issue developed into a head-on confrontation between Apple and the Chinese authorities, the US company will never be a winner, nor will China necessarily do well. Of course, Apple will suffer the most, as its products are already facing increasing competition in China.
It will be wise for Apple not to entangle itself into political debates. For Apple, it is still a matter of business. - Global Times
Why call US tech giant rotten Apple?
State broadcaster Central China Television (CCTV) took the first bite. The People's Daily followed, and now others like Guangming Daily and The Global Times have joined the fray.
China's state media has been piling the pressure on Apple since the American tech giant was criticised during CCTV's annual show on March 15 to mark World Consumer Day.
This week alone, the People's Daily has run articles four days in a row to lash out at Apple for allegedly discriminating against its customers in China.
"Why is it that Apple is so incredibly brazen and arrogant in China when it doesn't dare to be so in the United States and other countries?" asked a commentator in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party. It also likened Apple to a wolf pretending to be innocent.
Many observers are wondering about the real reasons behind the coordinated media attacks.
Could China be retaliating against the difficulties faced by its tech behemoth Huawei in the US? Or is it Apple's lack of advertisements in the state media?
"I wish I knew," Bill Bishop, a Beijing-based analyst and founder of The Sinocism China Newsletter, told The Straits Times.
There are some who say there is nothing more to it than Apple behaving badly.
"When it comes to China, a market with great potential, Apple has taken advantage of its fans' crazy enthusiasm by using incredulous sales tactics," wrote blogger Shu Shusi, a frequent commentator on consumer issues.
Not only are iPhones released later and sold at a higher price in China than elsewhere, their after- sales service is bad too, he added.
Apple might also have violated Chinese regulations, noted others. CCTV on Wednesday said consumers had complained that Apple offered only a one-year warranty for its MacBook Air in China, when the country's rules mandate a two-year warranty for the main laptop parts.
Then there is the sense that Apple needed to be taught a lesson for not being contrite enough.
"Errant companies" featured on CCTV's 315 Evening Gala, like Chinese net firm Netease, had been quick to apologise and make peace. But Apple insisted that its China customers enjoy the highest service standards.
Some wonder whether the attacks are just a case of tit-for-tat.
A US Congressional report last October accused Huawei of being a security threat.
"Just as the US attacked Huawei, China is taking it out on Apple in revenge," claimed "Blank Neo" on his Sina Weibo microblog.
Another possible explanation could be Beijing's unease with the wide usage of iPhones in China.
"There is a serious official desire for an indigenous mobile operating system," noted Bishop.
Also, the iPhone's operating system may be seen as a foreign security threat as it is a closed one and not easily monitored. The Android operating system, in contrast, is open and thus less of a threat, say observers.
The attacks could be a way of attracting eyeballs, suggested a consumer rights advocate.
"Apple has a huge customer base in China. Its news value is high," Wang Hai said.
What can Apple do to stop the rash of attacks?
Said Bishop: "I expect Apple to have to change its policies, express public contrition, and then this particular storm will blow over.
"They may also need to buy some ads on CCTV, as (search engine) Baidu and many other Chinese firms who have been on the receiving end did."