Apple has taken a Chinese approach in handling criticism from the Chinese government over the company's warranty policies by apologizing. In a statement posted to Apple.cn, Apple not only apologized for its warranties, the company apologized for doing a bad job of communicating with consumers and the public and promised change.
"In the past two weeks, we have received a lot of feedback about Apple's repair and warranty policies in China," Apple wrote, according to Google Translate (tweaked by TMO). "We not only reflected on these views profoundly, together with relevant departments to carefully study the 'Three Guarantees,' we also looked at our maintenance policy communication and examined our management specifications of Apple Authorized Service Providers."
The company added, "We are aware that the lack of external communication in this process has lead to speculation that Apple is arrogant and does not care or does not attach importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gives consumers."
One of the most interesting aspects of the letter was an acknowledgement that Apple needed to make more of an effort figure out how China works if the company wants to do business there.
"We also realize that operating in China we need to learn the place," Apple wrote. "Here, we assure you, Apple's commitment and enthusiasm in China is indistinguishable from other countries. Bringing the best user experience for consumers and satisfactory service is our ideal, our commitment, and it has been deeply rooted in Apple's corporate culture. We will make unremitting efforts to achieve these goals."
Those are interesting words for a company like Apple that is known for its corporate secrecy and—let's be honest—its arrogance, especially when dealing with the press. The above statement is a symbolic feast of crow, or whatever it is that one might eat in China to signify humble acceptance of sudden humiliation.
In fact, this was one of the very charges leveled against Apple in a concerted and coordinated campaign by government-owned media properties, regulators, and even a state-owned animation studio. Fearing no overreach of hyperbole, The People's Daily went so far as to accuse Apple of "unparalleled arrogance."
Reading Monday's statement, however, demonstrates anything but arrogance on Apple's part. Indeed, Apple showed humility and humbly asked forgiveness for its corporate sins. Anna Han, an associate professor of law at Santa Clara University, told The New York Times that Apple's apology was a "very Chinese thing to do.”
She said that Apple's actions effectively take the wind out of its government-critics' sails, and is the sort of thing that plaintiffs might ask of defendants in Chinese court.
“It says, ‘We’re accused of something and we’re doing something about it,'" she said.
In other words, Apple may already be learning from its mistakes, and studying how things are done in China.
The question is, will it be enough? Was China really concerned about Apple's warranty policies? Those policies have now been modified to meet Chinese law. Apple has even apologized for seeming arrogant and promised to go about things better in the future.
If that's all the fire there was to this smoke, things should be fine and dandy going forward.
If, on the other hand, Apple was a pawn in the political battle over security between Beijing and Washington; or, if China is interested in promoting local brands at the expense of Apple; or, if China is exerting pressure towards a future when it wants Apple to enable government tracking on iPhones and iOS apps...
Well, if that's the case, look for more attacks on the Cupertino company.