Finally, a Worthwhile “Apple: What Have We Learned?” Article

April 5, 2013

You’ve probably read more than one story about Apple’s current troubles in China. This latest kerfuffle involves a broadside against Apple’s warranty and repair policies by local media (e.g., CCTV, People’s Daily) and at least one consumer agency.

Why have I avoided it? While it’s big news for Apple, and for all you Cult of Mac folks out there (oh yeah, and journalists/pundits), I can’t find anything here that can really be put in the “new” category. In other words, all we’ve got is another huge multinational that is being singled out by the government here.

Been there, done that. Does this signal some sort of new policy stance by Beijing? I have no idea (and no one else does either). Is this evidence of protectionism or revenge for the hits taken by Huawei and/or ZTE? Maybe, but once again, no one knows for sure. I didn’t much feel like speculating, since I probably have even less information than most pundits out there.

All that being said, I break my much-appreciated silence (I assume) on this issue not to weigh in, but to simply point you towards one of the only articles written so far that I find useful, David Wolf’s “Kowtow Now” in Foreign Policy. And I’m not giving a thumbs up to this because of any groundbreaking news or opinion; in fact, it is totally well-tread ground (if you’ve been paying attention to China for the past decade or so). However, it’s a very well-written piece and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

What I like is that the article does not focus on Apple so much, but rather takes a broader look at how foreign companies are treated in China. This is useful stuff, and if I may say so, David’s conclusion is something I’ve been repeating for many years:

The better course of action for companies is to try to avoid becoming a target. Take the double standard and use it as an advantage by proactively behaving at a higher benchmark: when in Rome, doing as the Christians, as it were. Making China a “most favored nation” by adhering in China to your highest operating standards from around the world — in finance, customer service, hiring, and ethics — is not just a nice idea, it is a corporate survival strategy.

Excellent advice. If you want to waste your time speculating about Apple and what the government might be doing, go right ahead and troll through the usual news coverage. But if you’d rather learn something useful, go read David’s article.