Apple has recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary of their partnership with Red, a charity organization trying to fight HIV and AIDS. To celebrate they have released a new product, a variation on the iPhone 6 and 7 with a red finish. A portion of the profits made by these new iPhones goes to the Red organization for HIV and AIDS research. These iPhones are now being shipped all over the world, being advertised on the Apple website as the Red iPhone. But, to many people’s surprise and confusion, on Apple’s Chinese retail website the product is not advertised as a new product as it is everywhere else, but rather it is advertised as the same old iPhone but “now in red”. Therefore it is not advertising the fact that a portion of its profits are going to the Red corporation.
There have been a couple of speculated reasons for this unusual behaviour on Apple’s part. One reason might be that HIV and AIDS is a sore topic in China; in China HIV and AIDS are seen as Western diseases, brought into China by Westerners or people that have associations or ties with Westerners. Therefore, Chinese people who have HIV and AIDS are discriminated against because it is insinuated that they have fornicated with Westerners. Discrimination against AIDS victims is a relatively common practice in China. This is a result of the years of propaganda and brainwashing in China; the government didn’t want to put any blame on themselves or have to deal with these problems so they just blamed it on the Westerners.
In China, red is actually a symbol of prosperity and luck. For ages the color red has been incorporated into the Chinese culture as a positive symbol, in their flag, their costumes, their festivals. During the Chinese new year for example children are given red envelopes with money as a sign of prosperity and luck for the new year. Red has always conveyed a positive message in China, and yet because of this strong bias against people with HIV and AIDS, Apple is not able to sell this “Red” iPhone successfully in China. It really shows how strong the opinions of the Chinese people are, that they won’t even buy a phone as long as it is supporting people with AIDS. In addition there isn’t really any reasoning behind it, they just have been indoctrinated into hating AIDS patients, by their government, for so long that it’s all they know. It isn’t like people are purposely trying to go around spreading AIDS; no one wants the disease and it wasn’t their choice to have it, and yet the Chinese people continue to discriminate and victimize AIDS patients. Although one might argue that technically AIDS is not indigenous to China, it originated in Africa and spread all over the world, so therefore China does technically have the right to blame the outside world for it. But I would then address that argument by saying, does China really believe that they could keep this virus out forever? 98.8 million people traveled to China in 2015 for various reasons such as tourism and business; did China really think it could keep up its tourist and business industries if they didn’t let any outsiders into the country?
I think a large part of why the Chinese dislike AIDS patients is because the majority of them are gay and bisexual men. Because of that AIDS is often linked or associated with homosexuality which is still a very controversial topic in China and around the world. Until 2001 homosexuality was listed as a “mental disorder” according to the Chinese government. In addition according to a recent study by CNN, only 5% of China’s LGBT population is open about their sexuality with friends and coworkers. The Chinese LGBT population is also not legally protected by the government from hate crimes or discrimination in the workplace.
In conclusion, Apple’s Red iPhone has inspired a lot of controversy in China. It has inspired people to really take a look at the Chinese values, along with the rights of the LGBT community, and people with HIV and AIDS.