'Boss, it's April Fool's Day': Reactions as Apple apologises

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 April, 2013, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Apple China: “Boss, we’ve drafted the apology letter; can you please sign it off?”
Apple HQ: “Our after-sales service in China is great, we will not apologise!”
Apple China: “Boss, we have been telling you for 15 days, we are a little bit wrong.”
Apple HQ: "Fixing a small problem is enough, let’s just say we regret, but we cannot apologise!"
Apple China: "Boss, look at what happened to Google […]”
Apple China: “Boss, it’s April Fool’s Day, please…”
Apple HQ: “Ok, I’ll sign.”

This joke has so far been shared more than 36,000 times on Sina Weibo on Tuesday, a day after Apple caved in to a two-week long onslaught of criticism by Chinese national state media berating the tech-company for its customer service in China.

Many observers reacted with disbelief when they saw China’s most authoritative national media outlets, the People’s Daily and Chinese Central Television (CCTV), focus on the question of a shortened product warranty for the company’s computers, cellphones and tablets in China.

Caixin called the attacks “rotten to the core.” The business monthly interviewed law scholar Fu Weigang, who agreed, 

"So many media resource are devoted to [bashing] a product whose customer experience is relatively good while there are many poor-quality products begging for scrutiny," he said. "This is a misallocation of media resources."

"If we push the double standard question to the extreme, Apple's American employees are paid more than Chinese employees," Fu said. "Does that qualify as discrimination against Chinese workers?"

China Youth Daily agreed in its editorial reaction titled "Apple or milk powder - the media's responsibility":

In the minds of some people, criticising Apple reflected a correct political orientation, while paying attention to issues like milk powder, gutter oil, [...] and dead pigs could mean touching upon “blocks of solidified interests.”

Others say the media campaign has achieved its goal and served the public. The Global Times was among those who praised CCTV for its attack on Apple:

Some Apple fans launched an offensive against CCTV. They should reflect on the fact that CCTV is trying to defend their rights. But the issue has been interpreted through a highly ideological lens. Apple, as a company, is deified by its fans. But no company can escape the supervision of public opinion. It also raised questions about Chinese mainstream media and why normal criticism against a company could backfire in such a way. The Apple incident was settled quickly, and should bring some maturity to Chinese society.

A final sentence of the editorial that was not translated in its English version adds a call for more Chinese self-confidence, which reflects a recurring theme in its opinion pieces: Criticism of Chinese media and praise for Apple comes from those who blindly embrace "Western superiority."

Lefist internet commentator Ran Xiang adds to this sentiment:

“Will Apple fans thank CCTV and the People’s Daily? The answer is: no! […] Apple fans like Apple for its pride and arrogance, now that Apple lost its pride, they lose their arrogance!”

On a less emotional note, blogger Lan Xi argued that the episode has served to disenchant Apple with Chinese consumers who had craved the lifestyle its products embodied. It helped them realise, he writes, that Apple is just another company anxious for profit. Even if the company changed its service,

“I will not have any sentiment of affection or passion [for Apple].”

“This is the end of the story,” Kai-Fu Lee, former head of Google China with some 35 million followers on Sina Weibo wrote in a first reaction on his microblog. “Or will there be another move?”