Apple has said it will donate 50 million yuan, or about $8 million, to help those in China’s Sichuan province, where a magnitude 7.0 earthquake Saturday left nearly 200 people dead and more than 15,000 wounded.
In a statement on its Website in China, Apple said—or approximately said, according to Google Translate—”In this difficult time, our hearts are with the victims of the Sichuan earthquake …”
Apple also committed to equipping schools affected by the earthquake with new Apple devices and said that its employees were in standby mode, ready to help.
China is Apple’s second-largest market, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he expects it to soon enough replace the United States as its No. 1 revenue generator.
“We are growing very fast. We are continuing to invest in retail stores here and will open many more over the next several years,” Cook said during a January visit to China, according to a report from the Zinhau News Agency. “It’s a very, very important country to us.”
During the trip, Cook was said to have been working on negotiations to sell the iPhone through China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier.
Still, for a company used to getting things perfectly the first time, courting Chinese consumers and establishing the Apple brand in China haven’t been seamless.
Earlier this month, Cook offered a quick public apology to customers in China and Apple changed its warranty and repair policies there, after China Consumers’ Association, a consumer-interest group, accused Apple of discriminating against Chinese customers by treating them differently than customers elsewhere.
In his apology, and announcement of the policy changes, Cook expressed his gratitude for the feedback and his “immense respect” for China and the Chinese people.
Apple, with its donation, may be showing that it is learning how to work in China.
Users of Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblog platform in China have been vocal about various companies’ earthquake-response donations, the Wall Street Journal reported April 23.
Alibaba and Tencent Holdings each originally pledged donations of 5 million yuan, which the microbloggers were quick to criticize. On Monday night, the Journal reported, Tencent upped its donation to 20 million yuan.
Hon Hai Precision—a company that over the last few years has become a well-known name in the West for manufacturing iPhones and iPad, for a terrible series of employee suicides at its factories and for the questionable treatment of its employees—also pledged 50 million yuan.
Alibaba, Baidu, Qihoo 360, Sina, Sohu, Tencent and Google—essentially a band of rivals—have joined with other tech companies, consolidating their efforts for the cause, the Journal reported. They’ve created a single site where families and friends can reconnect with those they’ve been separated from, or find assurance that loved ones are safe.
The Journal quoted APCO Worldwide Senior Counselor James McGregor, who offered some additional context on the various charitable acts taking place in China at the moment.
“If you’re a foreign company in China these days,” said McGregor, “you’re an open target for both attacks from people on the Internet and also government entities and the government media, so I think the default is always to anticipate that you’ll have trouble and try to get ahead of it.”