Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) went on the retreat last week after CEO Tim Cook released an apology to Chinese state-run media. But is China’s Communist party simply looking for ways to gain back control of public opinion after it’s been wrested away by technology?
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been under direct attack by the media there for the past three weeks. After last week’s big apology, state-run media in China praised the tech giant for its response to complaints about its customer service and warranty practices.
On April 9th 2021, Bruce Greenwald, the founding director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham and Dodd Investing at Columbia Business School, sat down for a Fireside Chat with Li Lu, the founder and chairman of Himalaya Capital as part of the 13th Columbia China Business Conference. Q1 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Read More
But what’s interesting to note through all of this is the appearance that the Chinese people themselves appeared to support Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) instead of the Communist Party, which claimed to be speaking out in their defense. A poll conducted by an online Chinese finance magazine actually backfired. It was meant to show how upset the Chinese were with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), but instead, they voiced their opposition against a number of state-run services and businesses.
The poll is just one example of many which shows how users of technology in China are voicing their opposition of the government and especially the Communist Party. BusinessDay reports that on Weibo, which is basically the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, the backlash against the government was extreme. It certainly seems obvious that the younger generation which uses Weibo and other forms of social media is more willing to speak out against the government which has
Historically, the Chinese government has been all about control of public opinion. It bans books if they focus on rebellion or criticism of authority. For example, the classic George Orwell novel Animal Farm has been banned in China because it criticizes leaders who are corrupt. The short story collection Big River, Big Sea by Taiwanese author Lung Ying-tai was banned because it focused on the end of the Chinese Civil War.
The Chinese government has also blocked access to numerous website in an attempt to control the Internet and its ability to convey public opinions which clash with the government’s views. Even sites like Google Docs are at least partially banned, according to Greatfire.org. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s social media network is also banned in the country.
But now thanks to technology, the Chinese have more access to outside opinions than ever before, and they have a great ability to convey their own opinions—even the ones which don’t match up with what the Chinese government says. In fact, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) had to retreat again late last week after a Chinese app on the App Store offered access to books banned by the government in China, according to the Financial Times. Chinese authorities asked Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to remove the app because of the banned content.
So it just may be that for the first time in history, public opinion in China has gotten out of the government’s control thanks to the internet. It’s worth asking whether the Chinese government’s attacks on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) were actually because of the greater connectivity the company offers through technology. Do Apple products make it easier for China’s younger generation to speak out against the government?
After all, we’ve seen time and time again that social networking is going mobile. Twitter especially has made it easier to make short statements about anything while the user is out and about, and Weibo is very similar to Twitter.
If China’s government is going to declare war on techies, then it could be in for one heck of a fight. Whenever any government tries to control the Internet, the people and companies of that nation make their voice known. The Stop SOPA movement in the U.S. a little over a year ago showed how techies can join together in one voice to tell the government what they really think about restrictions placed on the Internet.
And if the Chinese state-run media is more concerned about the Internet than about Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) specifically, then we could see more attacks, not necessarily against Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), but against avenues which make it easier to share and express public opinions which clash with those of the Chinese government.