Time for Apple to fulfill social responsibility
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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.