Beijing - Apple apologised to Chinese consumers after government media attacked its repair policies for two weeks in a campaign that reeked of economic nationalism.
A statement Apple posted in Chinese on its website on Monday said the complaints had prompted "deep reflection" and persuaded the company of the need to revamp its repair policies, boost communication with Chinese consumers and strengthen oversight of authorised resellers.
State broadcaster CCTV and the ruling party's flagship newspaper, People's Daily, had led the charge against the American company. They accused Apple of arrogance, greed and "throwing its weight around" and portrayed it as just the latest Western company to exploit the Chinese consumer.
The attacks quickly backfired, though, and were mocked by the increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers who revere Apple products. State-run media also inadvertently revived complaints over shoddy service by Chinese companies.
Nonetheless, Apple responded with an apology from CEO Tim Cook.
"We've come to understand through this process that because of our poor communication, some have come to feel that Apple's attitude is arrogant and that we don't care about or value feedback from the consumer," Cook's Chinese statement said. "For the concerns and misunderstandings passed on to the consumer, we express our sincere apologies."
Although Apple enjoys strong support from Chinese consumers, the vehemence of the attacks and the importance of the Chinese market appeared to have persuaded the company to smooth its relations with Chinese consumers and authorities.
The People's Daily newspaper ran an editorial last Wednesday headlined "Strike down Apple's incomparable arrogance".
"Here we have the Western person's sense of superiority making mischief," the newspaper wrote. "If there's no risk in offending the Chinese consumer, and it also makes for lower overheads, then why not?"
Chinese observers accused People's Daily of gross hypocrisy and pointed out that the newspaper had maintained a stony silence when Chinese companies were implicated over food safety, pollution and other scandals.
Meanwhile, CCTV was shamed when it emerged that celebrities had been recruited to blast the company on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, in what had been billed as a grassroots campaign.
"The public responded in two ways to this incident," popular commentator Shi Shusi wrote on his Weibo account. "One group supports this criticism but quite a number of people felt that there are state monopolies which have severely violated customer's rights, but which are not being exposed."
Popular business magazine Caijing said its readers identified a long list of abusers, including state banks that lend to those with political connections while stiffing ordinary savers with low rates on deposits; a government oil company that sets gas prices and other rates as it sees fit; and state telecom providers notorious for their lack of customer service.
"If media is going to go after Apple, let's hope they spare some thought for those big Chinese communications companies and other monopolies, the ones that enrich special interests in the name of being publicly owned," Cai Tongqi, a lawyer from the eastern province of Jiangsu, wrote on Weibo.
Consumers thus far seem unfazed by the state media's attacks on Apple.
Perusing the wares at an Apple reseller in Beijing's tony China World mall, recent college graduate Zeng Lu said she considered the controversy a sign of the Chinese consumer's growing maturity.
"It's great to see Chinese consumers standing up for their rights, but it's ridiculous for the People's Daily to get involved," Zeng said. "They should be criticising state companies instead."