The fallout from a recent court ruling on territorial claims in the South China Sea was expected to be political, but it has now embroiled the Apple iPhone 7.
An international tribunal in the Hague recently ruled in favor of the Philippines as part of an ongoing maritime dispute with China. Both nations are among a number of countries which have rival claims to the resource rich South China Sea, writes Elisabeth Perlman for Newsweek.
South China Sea ruling sparks backlash against U.S.
The ruling has angered many people in China, to the extent that one small company has imposed a ban on its employees buying the Apple iPhone 7 when it is released. It is thought that the United States influenced the court decision, and as a U.S. company Apple has become mixed up in controversy in China.
Bina Technology imposed the ban in protest against the court ruling. The firm is based in Zhejiang Province and bosses are upset that the court found that China violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines due to its actions in the South China Sea.
Chinese nationalists think that the United States influenced the ruling, and Apple has come under fire. Bina Technology will give staff members 2,500 yuan ($374) if they buy a different brand of smartphone to replace their iPhone 6.
Employees who replace an iPhone 5 will be paid 1,500 yuan ($225) and those who replace an iPhone 4 will be given 1,000 yuan ($150).
iPhone 7 purchases banned at Chinese technology company
The company has also posted notices in its facilities, which read: “From today, any company employee who wishes to buy an iPhone 7 will be sacked. Anyone who gets sacked over this matter will not be hired for good.”
The company has a patriotic slogan which reminds employees of their loyalties. “Let China love Made-in-China” can be seen around Bina facilities.
According to Zhang Yunlong, general manager of Bina Technology, 13 members of staff have so far shown interest in replacing their phone. The iPhone replacement scheme is just one of a number of anti-U.S. actions that have been seen in the aftermath of the ruling on the South China Sea.
Controversy stoked by search term association
Chinese microblogging site Weibo has seen a number of images of smashed iPhones appearing online. This may be linked to an apparent iPhone software glitch which caused outrage on Chinese social media app WeChat.
Many users blame the glitch on Apple’s apparent anti-Chinese stance. When users of the iPhone typed in the pinyin word “jichen,” the word “China” would appear as the first word of choice. Jichen actually means “hit and sink” with the association causing offence among Chinese.
Reports in Chinese media claim that Apple explained the glitch by saying that search terms had become muddled following the story of an Argentinian coastguard vessel which sank a Chinese fishing boat in March. It remains to be seen whether the controversy will serious dent Apple’s popularity in China. In April 2015 the tech giant revealed that it sold more iPhones in China than in its home U.S. market for the first time.
Many Chinese have taken a decision to boycott U.S. goods. Some have targeted fast food chain KFC, refusing to eat in the restaurants.
In the city of Heibei in Jiangsu province, activists were seen outside one restaurant with banners which read: “Eating American KFC is a loss of face for our ancestors.”
Other actions have targeted the Philippines. Chinese online shopping site Taubo has seen a decrease in the number of orders for mangoes produced in the Philippines.
The official line from Beijing is that the ruling is a “political farce.