iPhone 5 and the Social Problems in China

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in Apple, Technology | No Comments


OK — so now China’s got the iPhone 5 on the mainland as well. Let the cashiers ring and sing!

You know, I’m on no account bashing the iPhone 5. It’s got a fair bit of technical improvements, and that’s always good when something neat gets better. But there’s a problem: the consumerism.

I mean, seriously, go into any mall in and around Beijing — it’s now more European than a Swiss mall — like the country’s largest, the Glatt Centre just outside of Zurich. I know it has a few weird-looking bars or cafés, but oh well…

When you take a look at it, Chinese consumers — Chinsumers — are just totally mad on every last new thing. Look at the extents folks will go just get their paws on an iPhone — kidneys on sale, tyres swapped for hard, solid cash — and I’m sure we’ve not even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. This is just outright outrageous crass consumerism that makes the US go green with envy. It’s capitalism on steroids. It’s getting out of control.

It’s, in fact, pretty much gotten out of hand: whereas the rich in the West try to hide their riches (or at least be low-key about them), this isn’t working well with the Chinese, where the richer you are, the more influence you seem to have — at least “bragging rights”. Ever know why the Swiss millionaires try to keep their Mercedes without numbers as long as possible — whereas First Class on a Chinese airliner is always full of burping, farting coal mine bosses who have just made it rich? It’s a matter of morals, really. China’s home to an excess of exam machines, top scorers in ludicrously impossible math exams, and record setters on national university entrance exams: it just doesn’t “do” morally apt people, yet.

You’ve got to think again if you’re apparently sold that an iPhone 5 lands you membership in the élite. If you don’t swear at random, if you’re nice to ladies, if you can get on “harmoniously” well at work, and if you know what to do — and what not to do — then maybe you are part of the more recognised social élite, or at least you’ve some really good manners. But if you’re going to be yelling down your new iPhone 5 in the metro, cussing in the process, or if you think that kids in Africa are “poor because they deserve it” (oh the thought of it!) and if you don’t care about folks at a disadvantage, then you’re the kind of “money-rich pretenders” Psy put down in his Gangnam Style, which makes fun of people who think “they’re in” — when they’re not. It’s pretentious to be pretentious (and please let me excuse myself re: my pun).

The élite are what they are because of their morals and high standards. I’m not saying you should never be allowed to be part of the influential — you deserve a chance. But the fact is, just being rich doesn’t land you membership rights. Everyone can have a fair bit of cash. The thing is that some of us worry a little more about the responsibilities and duties that come with the cash… rather than spend it all….

When you do start to realise that there’s a fair bit of responsibility that comes to being rich, you might think it over again a fair bit. And realise that maybe, just maybe, standing in line waiting for the newest iPhone 5 to buy it just for the heck of it — may, after all, not be the sole thing you’d want to do this cold December day…