Apple has joined a growing list of tech companies pledging donations for flood relief efforts in China’s northern province of Shanxi, where heavy rains earlier this month left 15 people killed and 19,000 buildings destroyed.
“As the Shanxi region turns toward recovery, we want to do our part supporting relief efforts and helping with the rebuilding,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said on Chinese microblogging site Weibo on Wednesday. “Apple is making a donation to help the affected communities.”
Cook did not reveal the amount of donation, which followed another undisclosed sum that Apple donated in July to help victims affected by deadly floods in the central province of Henan.
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The announcement marked the latest effort by the US tech giant to build rapport with Chinese consumers and show its support for popular social causes in a country where patriotism runs high.
During the height of nationalist fervour in 2019, when Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co became the target of US sanctions, Apple faced a brief boycott initiated by several Chinese firms and individuals calling on people to stop buying the Californian company’s products in retaliation for Washington’s actions.
Thanks in part to Cook’s personal involvement in his company’s public relations efforts, including a video interview with a Chinese influencer that went viral on the Chinese internet in February, Apple has largely emerged unscathed. The iPhone 12, Apple’s first 5G smartphone, launched to strong demand in China last year. The latest iPhone 13 series, which opened for pre-orders last month, has also proved extremely popular among Chinese consumers.
China, the world’s largest smartphone market, is key to Apple’s business. The company’s revenue in Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, grew 58 per cent year on year to US$14.76 billion in the quarter ended June – nearly a fifth of total revenue.
Chinese social media reactions to Apple’s latest donation announcement have been largely positive, with many netizens expressing their appreciation.
“Thank you! But please also hurry up with the new iPhone delivery. I’ve waited for a month,” said one of the most popular Weibo comments. Others joked that Cook should get approval to join the Communist Party for Apple’s contribution to China.
A number of Chinese tech companies have also announced major donations, totalling over 300 million yuan (US$46.6 million), to help with recovery efforts in Shanxi, which has been devastated by more than five times its usual rainfall since the start of the month, resulting in the destruction of dams and rail lines, as well as more than 1,700 heritage sites.
Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post, has given away 30 million yuan, while its fintech affiliate Ant Group has pledged 20 million yuan. The foundations under Alibaba co-founders Jack Ma and Joe Tsai have each announced 10 million yuan in donations.
Social media and gaming giant Tencent Holdings, TikTok and Douyin owner ByteDance, search and artificial intelligence firm Baidu and discount online retailer Pinduoduo all said on Sunday they would donate 50 million yuan each.
Big Tech companies in China have been heeding Beijing’s call to pursue “common prosperity”, with Alibaba having earmarked 100 billion yuan earlier this year to help with the national strategy of equal distribution of wealth, while Tencent has set up two funds for the cause totalling 100 billion yuan.
This article Apple CEO Tim Cook pledges donations to China’s flood-hit Shanxi province first appeared on South China Morning Post