A crowd outside of an Apple store in Beijing reacts in anger to

news that sales of the new Apple 4S phone had been canceled,

after people had stood for hours in freezing temperatures.



Global Times, People's Republic of China

Shiny Metal 'God' Too Much for China's Apple 'Cultists'


Should Beijing be alarmed that China has some of the most rabid Apple fans on earth? For China's state-run Global Times, columnist Xin Haiguang writes that for lack of Chinese 'idols', some people of Mainland China have adopted a foreign one: Apple.


By Xin Haiguang*


January 16, 2012


People's Republic of China - Global Times - Original Article (English)

The Apple 4s handset is driving Chinese consumers wild with 'religious' enthusiasm.


RUSSIA TODAY NEWS VIDEO: iCrazy: Egg-bomb rage in China over iPhone 4S sales delay, 00:00:52, Jan. 13. RealVideo

The Chinese launch of the iPhone 4S was suspended Friday after fighting broke out outside of a Beijing Apple store. The angry crowd that had braved freezing temperatures for hours came close to rioting, throwing eggs at the store and trying to break its windows.


A significant number of those lining up at the Sanlitun store were migrant workers or students hired by scalpers. With some wearing red ribbons or yellow caps to identify themselves, special buying teams were well-organized in a dramatic bid to snatch as many new iPhones as possible on the first day of sales on China's mainland. Scalpers expected to make up to $79 [500 yuan] profit by reselling the highly coveted gadgets.


But a suspension of sales ruined business for the scalpers. They still had to pay students and workers they hired to line up for their time, and more disputes ensued when their compensation was significantly reduced.


The drama drew Western media attention, with The New York Times and Washington Post quickly covering the incident online.


The launch of all new Apple products draws crowds of fans around the world. But most of them don't riot like a group of drunken football fans after the home team has lost.


Some said the frenzy among Chinese Apple followers is a result of a deliberate strategy of the company to "hunger market" products by limiting the supply to China. It sounds reasonable. But as a multinational corporation with a business that reaches every corner of the globe, Apple easily applies "hunger marketing" everywhere. But why is the strategy so successful in China? Is it simply because of the sheer size of China's population, or the swelling pocketbooks of Chinese citizens?


The presence of a great army of scalpers demonstrates that profit potential of the Apple market is huge. And to get their hands on a shiny new device, Chinese consumers seem willing to fork over larger amounts of money than Apple fans elsewhere.


Apple fans wherever they live may be equally gullible in their pursuit of the latest toy. But aside from the pursuit of the latest electronic fashion, Apple worship in China has a number of local characteristics. Loving Apple makes fits right in with Chinese enthusiasm for foreign-made luxury goods.



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No one needs a $800 handset - but for many Chinese, the pride of owning luxury is more important than the functionality of the object in question. That is why they'll blow two months of pay on a single gadget. They may not be able to drive the same Mercedes as the wealthy, but they can carry the same LV bag.   



When the iPhone4S was launched in the U.S., Canada and especially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, mainlanders mobilized all their resources and connections to get their hands on one. As demonstrated by the lines of Chinese tourists in London or New York this holiday season, who bypassed famous attractions to hit Harrods or Macy's, Chinese consumers seem to have a particular penchant for overpriced foreign brands.


In every society, every country and every generation, there will be people who go crazy over certain fashions. It's not at all surprising for China to have one of the world's largest group of Apple cultists. The worship of Apple is no less reasonable than the worship of actual religious idols. Perhaps the situation simply reflects a lack of Chinese idols: without other idols to worship, Chinese fans put their collective faith in Apple.


*Xin Haiguang an IT industry commentator based in Beijing.  



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