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Patriot games: Chinese dump iPhones & switch to domestic Huawei devices amid US crackdown

A growing number of former Apple devotees in China have started switching from iPhones to domestic Huawei smartphones as trade and technology tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing.

The South China Morning Post reported that consumers were spurred by a rising “nationalist sentiment” to support the Chinese tech giant which has been blacklisted by the US.

According to the newspaper, “nationalist rhetoric of ‘switch to Huawei’ has gained increasing traction as trade tensions escalate.”

Social media campaigns have been urging citizens to support Huawei at Apple’s expense in response to US-China trade disputes, it said.

Some long-time Apple users in China have started framing Huawei purchases as acts of patriotism.

“There is a calling from my heart that I need to show support for Chinese brands, especially in the trade war climate,” said Wang Zhixin, a manager at one of China’s largest solar module manufacturers. Earlier this month Wang retired his three-year-old iPhone 7 and got a Huawei P30.

He explained that Huawei was not entirely chosen out of sympathy. “The company has a reputation for better quality at a cheaper price… [The P30] is faster and can take better pictures.”

Another former Apple fan, Sam Li, who works at a state-owned telecom company in Beijing, said that “It’s kind of embarrassing to pull an iPhone out of your pocket nowadays when all the company executives use Huawei.”


China is Apple’s largest overseas market, accounting for 17 percent of its total sales in the most recent quarter. Last year, Apple ranked as China’s fifth most popular smartphone brand with a 9.1 percent market share in the country. The company makes roughly 20 percent of its revenues and profits in China, which is the world’s largest market for smartphones. Apple’s market share in China has already fallen to seven percent in the first quarter of 2019, mainly due to Chinese consumers’ growing support for domestic brands.

On Wednesday, Goldman Sachs said that Apple’s earnings could drop by almost 30 percent if its products were banned in mainland China.

China’s communications firm Huawei has been accused by Washington of spying for the Chinese government. US President Donald Trump has issued an order barring US firms from supplying Huawei with parts or technology.

Complying with the order, software giant Microsoft removed Huawei laptops from its stores. Google has cut off Huawei's Android license while Microsoft has stayed silent on whether it will prevent the Chinese company from obtaining Windows licenses.

Huawei has been granted a 90-day extension to provide software updates to Android-powered handsets and maintain “continued operation of existing networks and equipment.”

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