After almost two weeks of near daily attacks from Chinese state media, Apple has ceded to to demands for an apology to Chinese shoppers for its inferior warranty and repair services. Earlier today, Apple CEO Tim Cook published a contrite statement in Chinese, saying: “We realize that a lack of communication has resulted in a perception that Apple is arrogant and doesn’t care about consumer feedback. We deeply apologize for any apprehension or misunderstanding this has caused.”
The apology is an about-face from Apple’s earlier response after state-backed CCTV aired a program claiming the company has been treating Chinese as “second-class” customers by, for example, not offering to replace faulty iPhones for free, a service provided in other countries. Apple had initially released a short statement saying the company’s practices in China are legal and that it cares about all of its customers. The situation only escalated as Chinese communist party mouthpiece People’s Daily began publishing scathing editorials linking Apple’s “unparalleled arrogance” with the “traditional superiority enjoyed by westerners“ (paywall).
Today, Cook’s apology is over 12,000 characters-long (about 800 words when translated into English) and details Apple’s plans to offer better iPhone 4 and 4S repair service in China, new training material for its providers in the country, clear explanations of product policies on its website, as well as a new page for shoppers to give feedback.
It has been hard to decipher the motives behind China’s attack on Apple’s policies. Theories range from an organized effort by Apple’s competitors to government preparation to push foreign firms out of China’s mobile market.
Apple’s motivation is easier to divine. China is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for smartphones and tablets, and Cook has said he wants China to become Apple’s largest market. He reiterated that in his statement today. “We have always held unparalleled respect for China,” Cook wrote, “and Chinese customers have always held a high place in our hearts.”