At first glance, it’s hard to tell why this picture is attracting so much attention on Weibo.
It shows a man opening his bag at an airport security line, while an officer holds an iPad. It’s a normal sight, until you recognise the man who the Apple device seemingly belongs to: Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei.
Huawei declined to comment, so we don't know for sure whether the device belonged to their CEO. But it wouldn’t be a surprise: Ren has previously admitted his love for Apple. And Huawei’s CFO, Ren’s daughter Meng Wanzhou, was carrying an iPhone 7, iPad Pro and MacBook Air when she was arrested in Canada.
“My children prefer Apple products over Huawei’s. Does it mean that they don’t love Huawei? Of course not,” the CEO told Chinese media in May. “Huawei products are ultimately commodities. People use them if they like them.”
He further explained, “iPhone has a good ecosystem and when my family are abroad, I still buy them iPhones, so one can’t narrowly think love for Huawei should mean loving Huawei phones.”
Responding to rising nationalist sentiment and calls to boycott Apple products in China after the US blacklisted Huawei from buying American technology, Ren said he would oppose any plans to ban Apple products in China. He also called Apple his teacher.
It’s not unusual for tech company executives to be found using their competitors’ products, and that’s true even for Apple. Shortly after returning to Apple, Steve Jobs was spotted using an IBM ThinkPad to work on a keynote presentation. (The ThinkPad was not running Microsoft Windows.)
While using competing products is one thing, tweeting corporate messages from an iPhone is a bit more conspicuous. In January, Bloomberg and Reuters reported that Huawei demoted and cut the pay of two workers who sent a New Year’s greeting on Huawei’s official Twitter account while using an iPhone. Huawei’s reported internal memo said that it was the fault of an outsourced social media agency.
Still, Chinese netizens aren’t too surprised by Ren’s choice. But there's something else about the picture that bothered one Weibo user.
“This is pretty normal. iPad is easy to use, and Ren Zhengfei as a professional consumer surely knows what’s good,” a Weibo user commented. “The problem with this picture is that there are no photos allowed in an airport's security check area.”