Apple off the hook as Chinese media approves of Tim Cook’s apology

iPhone 5 launch in China 001

Pressured by the relentless crusade of state-owned media in China which have been dissing Apple in headlines for days over its warranty practices, Tim Cook yesterday issued an open letter.

Published on Apple’s Chinese web site, the letter is basically a public apology addressed to the company’s customers and fans in the 1.33 billion people country, now Apple’s second-largest market. It’s done its job (for now) as the iPhone maker appears to have earned back the media’s respect in China.

The same major print and broadcast media that have been bad mouthing Apple throughout last week over its supposedly “unparalleled arrogance” is now singing praise to the company, with the country’s Foreign Ministry officially approving Apple’s apology…

Cook’s letter highlights that Apple is very well aware “that a lack of communication led to the perception that Apple’s attitude was arrogant and that we do not care and attach importance to consumer feedback.”

“We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gave consumers,” the translated apology reads.

The Apple CEO announced that a repaired iPhone 4/4S will now be covered under warranty for one year after it’s been repaired. And the company will no longer replace parts on broken iPhones and will instead issue new devices, like it does elsewhere.

Reuters now quotes China’s Foreign Ministry who told reporters at the daily news briefing:

We approve of what Apple said.

It gets even better as the country’s popular tabloid, The Global Times, published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, wrote Tuesday:

The company’s apology letter has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market. Its reaction is worth respect compared with other American companies.

This is certainly good news for California-based Apple which has found itself under coordinated attacks by state-run media, with one salvo after another scolding the company’s business practices in China.

That Tim Cook bothered to publicly apologize has underscored just how important China is to Apple’s global success. China is now Apple’s second-largest market, with sales up almost 40 percent to $6.8 billion in the holiday 2012 quarter.

apple store china line

“I believe it will become our first – I believe strongly that it will,” CEO Tim Cook said during his second trip to China.

Blogger Mike Elgan opined in his column over at Cult of Mac:

Whatever the reason, it has become clear that the Chinese government intends to hurt Apple’s business in China. They certainly have the power to do it.

And that changes everything for Apple’s longterm future.

Conspiracy theorists theorized that the government’s nasty swipes at Apple foreshadow a looming trade war while others speculated that China successful Western tech brands dead in their tracks in order to help local phone vendors like ZTE and Huawei, both on the rise in a major way internationally.

Notably, the United States government last year banned the purchase of Huawei and ZTE networking gear over fear of espionage through that equipment.

Michael Clendenin, managing director of technology consultancy RedTech Advisors:

They’re out of the woods and into the weeds. Things will rarely be smooth for Apple in China – even if consumers love it there will always be factions in and out of government that are trying to take it down.

Apple made it easy this time, but they have learned to be more proactive. The next time they stumble, it will be easier to recover. 

Another paragraph in Cook’s humble apology letter reads:

We recognize that we have much to learn about operating and communicating in China, but we want to assure everyone that we bring the same deep commitment and passion to China as we do to any other part of the world.

This commitment, a desire to delight all of our customers and provide them with an extremely high-quality experience, is deeply rooted in the culture of our company. And we will not rest until we achieve this goal.

Interestingly, the Chinese news site My Drivers reported that Apple dispatched its op-chief Jeff Williams who arrived yesterday in Beijing to deal with the PR crisis in China.

Whatever the reasoning behind China’s crusade against Apple, here’s to hoping the short-lived war was actually over Apple’s warranty practices rather than a sign of a large-scale trade war that would no doubt screw the company and seriously damage its reputation.