Apple accused of cultural insensitivity over ponytailed image


A customer service representative’s image on Apple’s website, sporting a ponytail resembling an Asian appearance, has sparked significant displeasure among a segment of Chinese Internet users. They accuse the renowned US tech firm, Apple, of disrespecting Chinese culture and displaying cultural insensitivity.

This drama began flaring across the Chinese social media platform, Weibo after a post featuring the aforementioned employee’s picture was shared on the website bilibili on Sunday. In the controversial post, the user accused Apple of assigning this ponytailed employee, reminiscent of the Qing dynasty era, to serve customers in China.

The cultural insensitivity allegations gradually spread, leading some Chinese netizens to attack Apple, questioning if it was mocking Chinese people. This is because the ponytail symbolises the time when the Han people were oppressed by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty.

Meanwhile, other netizens attempted to calm the situation, questioning if the cultural insensitivity reactions were overly sensitive. Some even pointed out that the employee’s image appears on Apple’s websites in other countries, not just China. They also speculated that the person in the picture might be a native American rather than Chinese.

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On Monday, China Daily, a news website, published an editorial warning netizens to be wary of excessive nationalism. It stated that although the ponytail might be a sore spot for the Han people, it’s important to acknowledge that the hairstyle is worn in many cultures. Hence, understanding that a ponytail is a style and not intended to insult any culture, reported Sanook.

Nevertheless, China continues to be a crucial market for Apple, accounting for 20% of its total sales. It also serves as a significant manufacturing base for this American company.

Vietnam recently banned the Barbie movie due to concerns of cultural insensitivity. The controversy stemmed from a scene in the film that displayed China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea. Read more HERE.

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Samantha Rose

Samantha was a successful freelance journalist who worked with international news organisations before joining Thaiger. With a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from London, her global perspective on news and current affairs is influenced by her days in the UK, Singapore, and across Thailand. She now covers general stories related to Thailand.

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