Sales of Apple products in the region, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, grew 67 percent to $6.8 billion in the first three months of 2013, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the company. Apple sold 2 million iPhone 5s during the first weekend it was available in China, in December.
The region is Apple's third largest market, accounting for 13 percent of all sales last year. More than 17,000 outlets sell its products in mainland China, a figure that includes 11 Apple stores and 400 premium resellers. In January, Cook said he expects China to replace North America as its largest source of revenue in the foreseeable future.
The attacks on Apple center on complaints over Apple's repair policies in China — specifically its practice of only replacing faulty parts rather than providing new iPhones, as it does in other markets. Critics say that allows Apple to avoid having to extend its service warranty by another year. Until Monday, the Cupertino, California-based company had kept silent apart from issuing a statement March 23 explaining its repair policy and pledging its deep respect for the Chinese consumer.
Yet consumers and analysts say the complaints hardly justify Beijing's campaign of vilification. Such nationalist outbursts are not uncommon, although previous campaigns against foreign companies have often been tied to perceived national slights, as often befalls Japanese firms in China. Beijing accused Google of being an arm of American "information imperialism" after the company announced in March 2010 that it would cease censoring its search responses inside mainland China and instead send visitors to its uncensored search engine in Hong Kong.
Beijing is also angry over Washington's efforts to exclude Chinese high-tech firms Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp. from the U.S. market, amid worries over security. A spending bill signed by President Barack Obama two weeks ago includes a clause barring NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Justice and Commerce Departments from contracting with firms tied to the Chinese government.
Washington and Beijing have also sparred over more recent hacking attacks, including a forensically detailed report by cybersecurity firm Mandiant that tied Chinese hacking to a unit of the People's Liberation Army based in Shanghai.
Apple, however, may have been singled out simply because it is "the biggest open target," said Jim McGregor, senior counselor at consultancy APCO Worldwide.
"We're still seeing a lot of things wrapped up in economic nationalism," McGregor said.
Even before Monday's apology, he had predicted Apple would make a show of contrition to get its relations with the Chinese authorities back on track.
Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China Ltd., a Beijing research firm, said the assault probably stems from a combination of factors, including the failure of Chinese companies to make breakthroughs in high-end consumer electronics.
"There's a general sense of frustration that China can't move further up the value chain," Clark said.
Apple statement (in Chinese): http://www.apple.com.cn/support/warranties
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