China boycotts Apple, will Singapore follow suit?

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Photo: You Tube screengrab

With the U.S. government and China in the middle of trade dispute negotiations, Chinese consumers’ shunning Apple iPhones could become another trigger that could push the two countries’ conflict to escalate.

It has been reported that Apple is losing $7 billion from iPhone projected sales from the Chinese market.  However, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that China’s deteriorating economy plus the trade tensions were the problem.

Many China watchers said that Apple phones are extremely costly for the locals, who fortunately now have homegrown brands to choose from, of which the most prominent are Huawei and Xiaomi-branded devices.

A survey conducted by the Bank of America’s equity research team showed user interest in upgrading to iPhone is rapidly decreasing, with most of the excitement now attributed to Samsung or Huawei products.

The firm goes on to speculate that increasing trade tension talks are aggravating the situation, with Apple potentially becoming the biggest victim as a consequence of the whole ordeal.

It has been long noted that Chinese consumers are inclined to stay away from business firms located in countries that have disagreements with the Chinese government. Some examples include Japanese-owned stores adversely affected in 2012 during the protests over the Senkaku Islands, and the boycott of South Korean companies, among them Hyundai and Lotte, over the deployment of a U.S. Missile defense system in Seoul.

The emerging attempts at a boycott of Apple products definitely appears as a direct response to firms and governments in Western countries that are perceived to working against the interests of Chinese firms like Huawei.

So, what about Singapore?

Considering Singapore’s extremely amicable relations with China, will the tiny nation-state’s iPhone buyers emulate what the Chinese have done?

A hub for global finance and trade, Singapore leaders know that its relationship with the world’s two largest economies are vital to its survival. In a statement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “It’s never easy to be a small country next to a big neighbor….If you have one big neighbor only, that’s not easy to manage. If you have two big neighbors, well in some ways you have more friends, but in other ways you have to make more difficult choices.”

“If there are tensions between America and China, we will be asked to pick a side. It may not be directly, but you will get the message that: ‘We would like you to be with us, and are you with us? If not, does that mean you’re against us?’ And that’s to put it gently,” the Prime Minister added. However, as a conclusion, the PM said in a clear-cut manner, “Singapore however, does not wish to “pick sides.”