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Summary:

Apple’s presence in China and how its products and brand are portrayed are critical to its future. That’s why the recent run-ins with the country’s state-run media could become a concern for the company.

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A week after what appeared like a coordinated attempt by China’s state-run TV network to have celebrities badmouth Apple’s customer service in social media, a newspaper known as the Chinese government’s “traditional mouthpiece” publicly went after Apple over another issue: the way it handles media relations. For a country so prized by Apple, why all the Apple hate lately?

The Wall Street Journal has a good post on the recent drama. It explains that these recent brushback pitches the state-run media outlets are throwing could be the government’s way of defending Chinese companies from being crowded out by foreign competitors, or its way of “doing more to encourage the growth of domestic smartphone companies and eat away at dominant foreign companies, such as Apple.”

In the most recent case, it’s not clear if Apple’s PR team in China is acting any different than their PR teams do everywhere else on the globe — let’s just say Apple is extremely choosy as to what kinds of requests it responds to.

This story is important because Apple’s increased presence in the country, and how its products and brand are portrayed, is critical to Apple’s future: CEO Tim Cook said he’s set his sights on China becoming Apple’s No. 1 market eventually. Right now, it’s No. 2, behind the U.S., but China’s growing population along with the company’s growing momentum in sales make it almost inevitable that the Chinese market will one day be the most important to the company.

But operating in a country run by the Communist Party of China, which has outsize control over domestic businesses, industries and press, means the rules are much different than almost anywhere else Apple has a significant presence. As with the copyright and trademark laws in the country, Apple’s relationship with the Chinese state-run media is going to be something to keep an eye on.

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  1. Apple needs a local presence, with a visible Chinese head.

  2. Operating in a country run by the Communist Party of China, you can’t expect them to play nice!

  3. Actually apple’s customer service is not good. We can’t be treated equally like other countries.

    1. Jai, I think you’re a little late. The memo said you were suppose to say that around 8:20. See #postaround820

  4. It’s all way too coordinated. Anyone who doesn’t think Samsung is buying negative PR on Apple is being naive. I don’t mean outright bribes, although there’s probably some of that, it’s hiring people to talk to people.

    I remember when the iPhone 4S was introduced. Some guy who had been waiting in line came out with his new iPhone to a spot where somebody happened to being shooting video and with a big smile dropped the iPhone on it’s face and showing everybody the cracked screen. Sure enough, it got coverage.

    And it’s just taken off since Apple got the $1B verdict. Samsung is a big advertiser on Chinese TV. It would take almost nothing to get a story unfavorable to Apple aired. What’s odd to me is that nobody in the media wants to ask whether Samsung may be behind any of this. It’s so obvious. I guess it takes the fun out of the “narrative.”

  5. Let the reality tell the truth.

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