China vs. Apple: The iPad is now in the Party’s crosshairs

The launch of the iPad in Beijing. Photo: AppleInsider

FORTUNE — In the latest twist in China’s state-sponsored attack against Apple (AAPL), the China Consumer’s Association — a government funded watchdog group — has zeroed in on the iPad. In a statement posted on the CCA’s website, according to a report Sunday on

“Apple Inc. was told to equalize the warranty periods in China compared with other countries. Buyers of iPads, after the company admitted the device is classifiable as a portable computer, are entitled to two-year after-sale service packages for its key components.”

The bit about “classifiable as a portable computer” is key. Apple provides one-year warranties on its products no matter where they are sold. But in also complies with stricter terms — such as the European Union’s two-year warranty rules — imposed by the countries in which it does business.

Because China requires manufacturers to provide a two-year warranty on a computer’s major components, classifying the iPad as a portable computer would require Apple to effectively double the duration of its warranty.

If it would blunt the barrage of criticism — and get the Chinese government off its back — that might be a small price to pay.

The CCA’s statement follows the announcement Thursday by China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce that Apple’s policies will now face closer scrutiny. The involvement of government agencies in what until now had been a media campaign has to worry Tim Cook, who has made no secret of the fact that he’s counting on China’s expanding market to help Apple sustain its growth.

The piece posted Sunday — with its talk of “arrogance” and “lawbreakers” and demands for an apology to the Chinese people — offers a taste of the rhetoric being hurled at the company in China these past two weeks:

“Analysts said Apple arrogance is sustained by its strong market presence in China. Its innovative products and aggressive marketing strategy have made it fearless of consumers’ frowns.

“Su Haopeng, a law professor with the University of International Business and Economics, said it is the company’s social responsibility to respect consumer rights, while it should not abuse its market predominance to hurt their interests.

” ‘Apple Inc.’s unfair and unreasonable rules have infringed consumer’s legitimate rights,’ he said.

“Wang Huijuan, a lawyer with the Beijing Hualian Law Firm, said the government should raise the penalties for home appliance repair disputes, as the current fine of 30,000 yuan (4,830 U.S. dollars) is too light to deter lawbreakers.”

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