The China People’s Daily, controlled by the Communist Party, used a front-page article to
criticise Apple’s customer-services.
The article went on to accuse Apple of an “empty and self-praising” response to an earlier critical report on the company by China’s state broadcaster.
The People’s Daily article was accompanied by a cartoon that showed a figure supposed to represent the US company saying: “Apple statement: empty.”
Earlier this month CCTV, Beijing’s state broadcaster, screened a consumer rights programme which accused Apple of not replacing broken iPhones, but instead only fixing specific parts, to avoid giving customers a new warranty period.
In other parts of the world, the programme claimed, Apple would give customers a new phone.
After the show had aired, it was claimed that a “celebrity conspiracy”was organised to post comments criticising Apple on the Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Peter Ho, a Taiwanese film star, posted a message straight after the broadcast saying: "Wow, Apple has so many tricks in its after-sales services. As an Apple fan, I’m hurt. You think this would be acceptable to Steve Jobs? Or to those young people who sold their kidneys [to buy Apple products]? It’s really true that big chains treat customers poorly. Post around 8:20."
The final sentence, "Post around 8:20", gave the impression that Ho had cut and pasted a message that he had been told to publish. The actor claimed that his phone had been stolen and he had not published the message.
However, it soon became clear that other celebrities were doing the same thing.
Apple has posted a message on its Chinese website to clarify the company's warranty policy, saying it fixes phones with new components but reattaches the original back case.
The statement also said Apple provides a 90-day guarantee on repairs, longer than the 30 days required by Chinese law.
"Apple's Chinese warranty is more or less the same as in the US and all over the world," the statement read.
China is Apple's fastest growing market and the second-largest after the US.
Analysts say the attacks suggest that Beijing is considering doing more to encourage the growth of domestic smartphone companies and eat away at dominant foreign companies, such as Apple.
It means "that in establishment circles, there is a level of acceptance that it is okay to go against this company, which can mean there's trouble down the road," Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Chinese media-watcherDanwei.org, told the Wall Street Journal.
Last week it was also revealed that China is developing a home-grown computer operating system as part of a five-year government plan to get more Chinese people using open-source software, and to make them less reliant on Western software.