Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) became the latest target of boycott in a short-lived protest against the United States in China after an international dispute involving the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.
According to Reuters, approximately 100 Chinese consumers staged a protest at four unofficial Apple stores in Suining in the eastern province of Jiangsu for about three hours on Tuesday. The protesters encouraged their fellow citizens not to buy genuine Apple devices on sale.
The protesters chanted, “Boycott American products and kick iPhones out of China, according one of the store owners Zhu Yawei. He also said, “Nothing really happed, no fights, no smashing.”
The protest became viral in Chinese social media including Weibo. Protesters flooded the microblogging site with comments against Apple and pictures of what they claimed as smashed iPhones, which is considered a status symbol in China.
Shallow protests have impact to Apple’s sales in China
Shan Mimi, a 23-year-old assistant at a Shanghai law firm, described the protest against Apple a “cheap nationalism and outright stupidity.” He also said, “But if you were to offer me an (upcoming) iPhone 7, then I would gladly smash my iPhone 6!”
A Chinese woman claimed on Weibo that she smashed her iPhone, but later admitted to Reuters that she lied. According to her, “I didn’t smash my iPhone. All I did was find a photo (of a smashed handset) on the internet and let off some steam. Boycotting Apple would only make Chinese people lose their jobs.”
According to Nicole Peng, an analyst at Canalys, foreign companies such as Apple can’t do much to prevent patriotic protests in China. She believes that the short-lived and shallow protests against the iPhone maker have no impact to its sales . She also noted, “These incidents happen every few years.”
The protest against the United States and the call to boycott iPhones in China was ignited by the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that China has no legal basis for its claims to certain areas in the South China Sea.
The international tribunal ruled that the Spratly Islands belong to the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. China violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines by constructing artificial islands at seven features of the Spratly Islands, interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zones.