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Tuesday, April 02, 2013, 02:56 am PT (05:56 am ET)

Apple's apology turns caustic Chinese press into cheerleaders

Just one day is all it took for state-run media outlets in China to sidle up to Apple after decrying the company's supposedly harmful after-sales practices, with the flip-flop in rhetoric spurred by CEO Tim Cook's apology letter on Monday.

According to Reuters, the same newspapers that attacked Apple have come to laud its chief executive's proactive measures — a rare apology letter issued in a distinct departure from the traditionally tight-lipped company.

Tim Cook


"The company's apology letter has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market," popular tabloid the Global Times said. "Its reaction is worth respect compared with other American companies." The paper is an offshoot of Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily.

Even the Foreign Ministry gave a nod to Apple's actions in light of the one-way mud slinging, saying the tech giant "conscientiously" responded to consumers' demands.

"We approve of what Apple said," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

With China being Apple's second-largest market, expected to soon become its biggest with smartphone sales booming, the company was likely looking to put the brakes on the Chinese government's media machine. It was estimated on Monday that the state-run media barrage could cost the iPhone maker some $13 billion in sales.

The anti-Apple campaign began with a China Central Television broadcast meant to spark discontent among Chinese consumers over after-sales service supposedly "biased against Chinese consumers in its warranty and consumer service policies." Following a nearly rote response from Apple PR, the People's Daily dug in with a disparaging front-page story about the company's reluctance to meet with press over the matter.

On Monday, Apple posted Cook's lengthy apology letter on its webpage, clarifying warranty practices and enhancing repair policies regarding the iPhone 4 and 4S. Perhaps most important to the Chinese government, and by extension its media, was the acknowledgment that Apple's lack of transparency could lead to "misunderstandings," for which Cook offered his "sincere apologies."