Apple has been struggling hard in China over the past year; as smartphone demand has been diminishing worldwide, especially for the kind of higher-end models that Apple sells, it seems that this has hit the hardest in China, despite the company’s best efforts to make its latest iPhones more accessible to Chinese consumers.
Now it looks like Apple is facing a Chinese battle on an entirely different front, with a rising tide of anti-Apple sentiment stemming from recent U.S. trade tensions. Although Apple has managed to mostly avoid the massive U.S. import tariffs being levied on Chinese-made products by the Trump Administration, it’s now instead facing a strong backlash in China from a combination of these trade tariffs and new U.S. opposition to Chinese phone maker Huawei.
According to BuzzFeed News, Chinese social media site Weibo — China’s answer to Twitter — has been flooded over the past few days with extreme anti-Apple sentiment, calling for outright boycotts on Apple products, and encouraging Chinese users to not only buy Huawei, but even reject their current iPhones and replace them with the Chinese-made alternatives.
The functions in Huawei are comparable to Apple iPhones or even better. We have such a good smartphone alternative, why are we still using Apple?Chinese user commenting on Weibo
While the anti-Apple sentiment in China isn’t entirely new — Chinese firms were pushing for Apple boycotts by their employees late last year — the general public sentiment against Apple in favour of Huawei has been rapidly increasing, and it’s likely that President Trump’s executive order last week to ban Huawei as a national security threat, and his administration’s increase of import tariffs to 25 percent threw gasoline onto the already blazing fire of opposition to popular U.S. products.
I feel guilty watching the trade war. Once I have money I will change my smartphone.Chinese iPhone user, commenting on Weibo
The U.S. — and much of the western world — has been considering various sanctions against Huawei for months now, following allegations of the company regularly stealing trade secrets from Apple and others, along with unverified rumours that its technology is providing a backdoor for spying by the Chinese government, and the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou last December, and of its Director of Sales in Poland, Weijing Wang, on espionage charges in January.
Despite all of this, however, support for Huawei has only been growing in China, increasing almost to a fever pitch among some segments of the population, who have come to believe that Huawei’s products are wholly superior to Apple’s.
I think Huawei’s branding is amazing, it chops an apple into eight pieces.Chinese user on Weibo, describing Huawei’s logo
Of course, some of this is simply economics — Huawei overtook Apple in smartphone sales last year, and has been the only smartphone maker to see sales growth in recent quarters, which analysts believe is most likely due to its focus on producing more affordable smartphones; by comparison, Apple and rivals like Samsung have gone for the premium end of the market, pricing themselves out of the hands of most Chinese consumers.
It’s not only Apple that’s raising the ire of Chinese consumers, however — the iPhone is simply perhaps the most popular and visible among foreign products in the country. Many are also calling for a complete boycott of all U.S. made technology — even smartphones that use Qualcomm chips — in retaliation for the U.S. decision to not allow companies to use Huawei’s technology. Individuals and businesses have also responded more directly to the U.S. trade wars, with some advertising that they will now be charging 25 percent service fees to all American customers in retaliation for the new 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods.