China's First Lady busted using (Gasp!) an iPhone


Peng Liyuan, the wife of China President Xi Jinping, using a white iPhone to take a picture during a diplomatic trip to Mexico yesterday is creating a stir online. Photo: AP

The photo comes just months after the Chinese government initiated a month-long, unrelenting state-media attack on Apple Inc. that found fault with its after-sales and warranty practices in China. In particular the reports pointed out that in the rest of the world Apple would swap a new or refurbished phone for a defective one, whereas in China the company would replace the phone, but not the back cover of the phone.

During the campaign, criticism of Apple appeared prominently in the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, leading to speculation that it could serve as a signal to government officials not to buy the company’s phones.

Given the widespread attention given to Ms. Peng’s outfits when she accompanied Mr. Xi on his first trip outside the country, it comes as no surprise that Chinese social media users were quick to pick up on the brand of the first-lady’s phone.

“Isn’t it that Auntie Peng’s phone broke, and they wouldn’t give her a new back cover [that prompted the media attacks],” wrote one user of Sina Corp.’s popular Weibo microblogging service. Many others simply posted laughing emoticons.

More serious was the debate over whether Ms. Peng, lauded for wearing clothes by Chinese designers, should be using one of the many brands of Chinese phones that have seen sales jump as demand for smartphones in China has made it the largest handset market in the world.

“Sometimes you don’t have to be so critical,” wrote one user defending Ms. Peng.“It’s only a personal decision, to make fuss out of it is a bit too much.” Others followed the same logic, but came to the conclusion that it must show that Apple’s products beat out Chinese-branded ones.

For now Sina seems not to have filtered out discussion about Ms. Peng’s choice of phone, an approach different from the one it took when microbloggers dwelled heavily on her choice of clothing during her first trip abroad as first lady. That could still change given that some commenters have used the discussion to point to the fact that, in addition to using an American phone, Ms. Peng also sent her daughter to school in the U.S. The couple’s daughter is a student at Harvard, a sensitive detail given Mr. Xi’s efforts to emphasize modest lifestyles for Chinese officials and their family members.


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