An Interesting Byproduct of the Recent Apple Bashing in China

May 14, 2013

You recall the fun and games when the Chinese media went after Apple as part of the Consumer Day “celebrations,” right? CCTV led the charge, followed by various Op/Eds and in-depth reporting on the U.S. MNC’s product warranty policy. Whether Apple was in violation of the law or not, it certainly was slammed upside the head with a great deal of negative PR, which made fanboys around the world cry “Leave ‘em alone already!”

When the perception is that Apple has been unfairly targeted, it means, among other things, that the next time someone criticizes Apple in China (by “someone,” I mean an official someone), it will look like a continuation of a witchhunt. To some degree, I think Apple, at least for a few more months, has a bit of a free pass when it comes to China attacks, at least in the eyes of folks offshore and probably local cultists.

Check out the tone of this report from a tech site:

China has been having a good go at Apple lately, having slammed the company in March for substandard post-sale service and quickly following that up with charges of copyright infringement.

The latest accusation: tax evasion.

Oh, and pornography.

Apple’s online stores in China are not paying proper import taxes for software sold to Chinese customers, according to a report from the China Association of Consumer Protection Law published in the Legal Daily newspaper.

Also, Apple is liable — criminally so — for peddling pornography in China, a Peking University law scholar, Kang Shuhua, is quoted as saying.

The porn charge echoes an April 17 report from state-run People’s Daily, which named Apple as one of 198 companies under investigation for spreading lewd content.

OK, two issues here: porn and taxes. On the former, the government is continuously going after distributors of porn. This is not new, and it isn’t even the first time that Apple, which distributes a heck of a lot of content, has been caught up in the latest anti-porn campaign. What content provider in China hasn’t had to deal with this issue? This is not evidence of a lingering anti-Apple campaign.

What about the tax issue? No idea. As Americans recently discovered, politically-motivated tax investigations can be sticky situations. In this case, we do not know one way or the other why Apple was being targeted and whether there is merit to any complaints. But is it possible that the company has run afoul of a tax regulation? Are you kidding me? Again, this is pretty common.

Look, whether you want to talk about copyright infringement, a tax problem, or the latest porn crackdown, this is all fairly normal stuff for a company like Apple. And no, that is in no way a criticism. The company is gigantic, does a great deal of business here in China, and no doubt deals with legal and regulatory issues on a daily basis.

But timing is everything. A few months ago, a porn crackdown that happened to also involve Apple wouldn’t have received much attention. Now it’s evidence of an ongoing conspiracy.