Apple, Samsung, and a former Japanese porn star vie for the hearts of China’s earthquake survivors

April 22, 2013
April 22, 2013

Samsung today posted on its Sina Weibo microblog account that it would donate 60 million yuan ($9 million) to Chinese aid efforts in Sichuan province, where an earthquake struck this weekend killing 188 people. Hours later, Apple pledged it would donate 50 million yuan ($8 million), plus computer equipment to schools affected by the quake.

Some Chinese see it as a new, not-all-that-subtle level of rivalry between Apple and Samsung. The two tech giants are currently competing for China’s burgeoning market of mobile technology users. Samsung was the top China’s smartphone market last year while Apple came in third, but dominates tablet sales. Today, news of their dueling donations spread across Chinese social media as Apple’s donation became a trending topic on Sina Weibo. One blogger commented (registration required): “These huge corporations wait for the others to donate first and then decide how much to give.”

Competing for Chinese loyalty is especially difficult for foreign companies sometimes targeted in nationalist campaigns. Earlier this year, Apple came under almost daily accusations from Chinese state media that the US company treats Chinese customers worse than Apple users elsewhere. Apple issued an apology.

Today, the homepage for Apple’s Chinese website was a message of condolence for the victims and survivors. Samsung posted a photo on its Weibo profile and the message (registration required), “Samsung China will always with the Chinese people, for better or for worse, passing through difficult times.”

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Apple’s message to China: “Let our hearts uplift each other. We express deepest regret for those lost, and respect for those who saved people…”(http://www.apple.com.cn/)
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A photo on Samsung’s Weibo profile to mark solidarity with victims of the Lushan earthquake.(Sina Weibo)

That’s what makes it curious that of all the donation efforts (including Disney, Chinese state-owned companies, the governments of Japan and Taiwan) Sora Aoi, a former “adult video” actress from Japan, seems to be garnering the most appreciation. The actress, who is also known as Sola Aoi and has almost 14 million followers on Weibo, is famous for saying that a set of islands in the East China Sea belong to China, not Japan. Aoi wrote and posted a parchment of calligraphy on her Weibo blog expressing support for Sichuan residents. A blogger whose profile says she is a manager for Aoi posted a comment asking for advice about where to donate money (article in Chinese), leading some to conclude Aoi was donating money to earthquake relief efforts. One blogger wrote (registration required), “Let us sing praise and applause for Ms. Cang!” using a nickname for Aoi.

Still, the Japanese actress likely has a motive of her own for appealing to Chinese residents. She debuted in her first film for the mainland last month. Here’s her calligraphy.

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Sora Aoi’s message to China, “Go, Sichuan. Peace to Ya’an.”(Sina Weibo)

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