HONG KONG — People in China are calling for a boycott of Apple products after tensions between China and the US reached new heights following fresh restrictions targeting Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Declaring a national emergency, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that banned US telecom companies from installing foreign equipment that poses a national security threat. A separate order bans Huawei from buying US technology without government approval.
On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, users reacted to US pressure on Huawei by rejecting Apple products. “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?” commented one user.
Despite ongoing US pressure on the Chinese telecom giant — including indictments that accuse the company of stealing trade secrets and allegations that its phones provide a backdoor to the Chinese government for spying — Huawei is not losing support in China.
“I feel guilty watching the trade war. Once I have money I will change my smartphone,” said another user who had typed the message from an iPhone.
“I think Huawei’s branding is amazing, it chops an apple into eight pieces,” said another post, describing the company's spliced, red logo.
Apple’s sales in China were already down 20% in the last quarter of 2018, according to an industry report. Meanwhile smartphone sales for Huawei were up nearly 25% in the same period.
“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter to investors in January, who added that much of the company’s revenue shortfall was due to lower sales in the country.
Some Weibo users went farther and called for a rejection of other US technologies, too. “Trump doesn’t allow companies to use Huawei, then let's not use Apple. We shouldn’t buy any phone that uses Qualcomm as well,” the user wrote, referring to the US chipmaker based in San Diego.
The move against Huawei comes only days after President Trump escalated the trade war, announcing increased tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods that went into effect last week. China fired back on Monday by announcing a 25% tariff of its own on $60 billion worth of American products that would go into effect June 1.
Meanwhile, China announced Thursday formal espionage charges against two Canadians who were first detained last December after a senior Huawei executive was arrested in Canada at the request of US authorities. Their detention was seen as retaliatory, but China says they have been charged in accordance with the law.
Apple has already relocated some of its production outside of China in response to the trade war, which has been in effect since last January. One of its manufacturers, Pegatron Corporation, said it would begin operations in April at a factory in Batam, a special economic zone within Indonesia that offers tax breaks, according to the Jakarta Post.
Editorials in China Daily, a state-run media organization, have taken on a nationalist tenor in recent days in response, proclaiming the country would not bow to US pressure and that it was not afraid to fight back.
Beijing “has consistently responded to Washington's attempts to turn the screws on it by each time giving it a sharp rap across the knuckles,” said one recent editorial.
Chinese-language accounts on Twitter, displaying similar behavior patterns to bot accounts, also posted identical messages following the developments. “For the trade war initiated by the United States, China has long indicated its attitude: It is unwilling to fight, but it is not afraid to fight,” part of one thread read.
Negotiations to resolve the trade war are currently at a standstill. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday he would travel to Beijing soon for more talks.
“When the time is right we will make a deal with China. My respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited but, as I have told him many times before, this must be a great deal for the United States or it just doesn’t make any sense,” President Trump tweeted earlier this week.
On Weibo, different photos with a banner strung across restaurants and warning Americans of increased prices due to the trade war tariffs were being shared across the social media site.
A few different versions of the banner popped up in social media posts. BuzzFeed News could not verify the veracity of the photos.
An English version of the sign read: “From now on, our store will charge 25% service fee (tariff) to American customers. If you don’t understand, please consult the American Embassy!”