Time for Ap­ple to ful­fill so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Thanks to con­sumers’ high hopes that Ap­ple will launch yet an­other rev­o­lu­tion­ary prod­uct on the 10th an­niver­sary of iPhone, the com­pany’s mar­ket value has again shot up, to about $700 bil­lion this week, un­der­lin­ing the op­ti­mism in the stock mar­ket of the United States and the wide­spread ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the game-chang­ing gad­gets cre­ated by the world’s most valu­able com­pany.

With the Dow Jones In­dus­trial Av­er­age re­cently cross­ing the his­toric 20,000 point level, it is no sur­prise that some gi­ant com­pa­nies like Ap­ple have seen their shares touch new highs. Ir­re­spec­tive of how sus­pi­cious the driv­ers be­hind the on­go­ing surge of US shares are, given the in­creas­ing un­cer­tainty over global eco­nomic growth, the ris­ing tide has helped, if not all, the most valu­able boats to sail to safer wa­ters.

Things were quite dif­fer­ent just a year ago. Few peo­ple ap­plauded Ap­ple for mak­ing the largest quar­terly earn­ings by any com­pany at the end of 2015. Some even voiced con­cerns over iPhone’s “du­bi­ous” fu­ture in China as the com­pe­ti­tion in the smart­phone mar­ket in­ten­si­fied in the world’s se­cond-largest econ­omy. But that Ap­ple’s shares have hit an all-time clos­ing high now in­di­cates that in­vestors, at least for now, should not worry about con­sumers not lov­ing iPhones as much as they used to do.

In­stead, for those who re­ally care about the long-term in­vest­ment value of Ap­ple, they should stop star­ing at their iPhones for a minute and ask them­selves: “How much love will be too much?”

A China Daily car­toon early this week vividly cap­tured this phe­nom­e­non aptly, through an ex­ag­ger­ated de­pic­tion of “what men love” as a 20:80 split of time be­tween wifi (ap­par­ently for smart­phones) and wife on Valen­tine’s Day as against the re­verse ra­tio on all other days. The car­toon might ap­pear hy­per­bolic, but the in­creas­ing num­ber of “phub­bers” in China as well as most other coun­tries can no longer be ig­nored. With more and more peo­ple spend­ing an in­creas­ingly large amount of time “fid­dling” their smart­phones, the po­ten­tial so­cial and health con­se­quences of the ob­ses­sion are ris­ing across the world.

One can­not sim­ply ac­cuse smart­phone mak­ers for th­ese un­de­sir­able con­se­quences, for the users have to ul­ti­mately de­cide how much time a day they should spend on their smart­phones.

But one can­not be jus­ti­fied ei­ther in say­ing that smart­phone mak­ers can do noth­ing to help pre­vent or re­duce users’ ob­ses­sion with the prod­uct just be­cause the man­u­fac­tur­ers do not need to fac­tor in on their bal­ance sheet the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of smart­phone overuse on con­sumers. The fun­da­men­tal rea­son that makes iPhones one of the most suc­cess­ful con­sumer prod­ucts in his­tory — it is on track to cross $980 bil­lion in sales in the decade since it hit the mar­ket — is the great conve- nience it brings to con­sumers by be­ing the sin­gle most im­por­tant per­sonal tool for so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions, en­ter­tain­ment and sev­eral other func­tions.

That Ap­ple is con­sid­ered the world’s most valu­able com­pany is a recog­ni­tion of the com­pany be­ing a pioneer when it comes to smart­phones. Yet as the spec­u­la­tive frenzy rises in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the prod­uct Ap­ple will launch on the 10th an­niver­sary of the iPhone later this year, a smart­phone with some new fancy func­tions or tech­nol­ogy can­not be con­sid­ered rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Per­haps by only in­tro­duc­ing a new prod­uct that is in­no­va­tively de­signed to make users aware of the “hid­den” con­se­quences of the “overuse” of iPhones can Ap­ple ful­fill its cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

For Ap­ple as well as Chi­nese smart­phone mak­ers, the com­pe­ti­tion to ful­fill their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing an in­no­va­tive tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tion to the grow­ing overuse of their gad­gets is likely to pave the way for their long-term suc­cess.

The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. zhuqi­wen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Should we ex­pect Trump not to re­verse course but go down the wrong path of flirt­ing with end­ing the one-China pol­icy? That would spell dis­as­ter for the US, the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan, and in­deed the re­gion and world.

Such a cor­rec­tion mech­a­nism has also been seen with re­gard to the re­marks of Rex Tiller­son. Dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for sec­re­tary of state on Jan 11, Tiller­son said China could be de­nied ac­cess to some of the is­lands in the South China Sea, rais­ing spec­u­la­tion that ten­sions would es­ca­late in the wa­ters.

That spec­u­la­tion, how­ever, was largely de­fused when US De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis said in Tokyo early this month that the US does not see any need for dra­matic mil­i­tary moves in the South China Sea.

The same diplo­matic wis­dom was ex­hib­ited by Trump at his joint press con­fer­ence with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe last Fri­day. When a re­porter from Sankei Shim­bun, a rightwing na­tion­al­is­tic pa­per in Ja­pan, asked how he in­tends to deal with China in the South China Sea and on cur­rency, Trump did not take the bait, as his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama prob­a­bly would have.

In­stead, Trump em­pha­sized that he had “a very, very good” con­ver­sa­tion with Xi. “I think we are in the process of get­ting along very well. And I think that will also be very much of a ben­e­fit to Ja­pan,” Trump said.

Be­sides be­ing diplo­matic, Trump’s an­swer re­flects much-needed wis­dom that was lack­ing in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Obama’s re­bal­anc­ing to Asia strat­egy was aimed at driv­ing a wedge be­tween China and its neigh­bors.

That zero-sum think­ing has not faded away to­day de­spite the fact that Obama has stepped down. Many pun­dits and in­ter­est groups con­tinue to ped­dle ar­ti­cles and re­search pa­pers ad­vo­cat­ing that pol­icy th­ese days try­ing to in­flu­ence Trump’s pol­icy.

Many Chi­nese were not sure about Trump at all be­fore he took of­fice, yet were will­ing to bet that a busi­ness­man is usu­ally a re­al­ist who likes win-win game.

It’s a big bet. But as long as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion dis­cards the zero-sum men­tal­ity, and works with China to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion and man­age dis­agree­ments, it might be a worth­while bet.


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