Apple mea culpa earns China praise

Chris Davies - Apr 2, 2013, 6:27am CDT

Apple’s public apology in China over its confusing warranty policy has prompted a rapid turnaround by the country’s state-controlled media, with newspapers previously decrying the iPhone maker now describing it as an example for American firms to follow. CEO Tim Cook put his name to a rare apology on Monday, after being blasted in China for how iPhone aftersales was handled. Now, Reuters reports, local news outlets hitherto apoplectic about Apple arrogance have softened, and even the Chinese Foreign Ministry has weighed in with an opinion.

“We approve of what Apple said” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told press earlier today, describing Apple as having acted “conscientiously” in how it adapted its policies following consumer feedback. The firm had been slated by state broadcaster CCTV, among others, last month, with accusations that it short-changed Chinese buyers on their warranties in comparison to those in other countries where the iPhone is offered.

According to the Global Times, a tabloid paper published by The People’s Daily, and operated by the Communist Party in China, Apple’s concessions should serve as an example in comparison to other US firms. “The company’s apology letter has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market” the newspaper wrote following Cook’s statement. “Its reaction is worth respect compared with other American companies.”

China has proved a tricky market for Apple. The company has publicly highlighted it as potentially the biggest source of growth for the next few years, as tech-hungry consumers pick up the purchasing slack left by North American and European markets; however, it also faces competition and copying from local rivals, tough stances on foreign business from the Chinese government, and difficulties managing local media, on which the Communist Party has a stronghold.

Those party mouthpieces haven’t shied from slating Apple and others when it plays to their advantage. The Cupertino firm was accused of “unparalleled arrogance” by the People’s Daily last week, something Tim Cook referred to in blaming “the lack of external communication in this process” for engendering an atmosphere of distrust around Apple’s motivations.

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