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Flag ChinaHow do you know you’re getting too successful in China? When government-sponsored media start to attack you in ways both subtle and obvious — sometimes at the same time.

Over the past weekend, China Central Television was caught mounting a clumsy reputation attack on Apple via Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese Twitter/Facebook hybrid with over 400 million users. As the Wall Street Journal reports, a flood of celebrity posts hit the site at 8:20 p.m. local time, shortly after a CCTV report on Apple’s “biased warranty and customer service policies.”

Unfortunately, some of the celebrities forgot to delete the timing notification. For example, Peter Ho, a Taiwanese/American actor, posted this (emphasis added):

Wow, Apple has so many tricks in its after-sales services. As an Apple fan, I’m hurt. You think this would be acceptable to Steve Jobs? Or to those young people who sold their kidneys [to buy iPads]? It’s really true that big chains treat customers poorly. Post around 8:20.

Other messages hit the site around the same time, and Sina Weibo users noticed the flood — and the odd “post around 8:20” postscript — and commented on it. Ho deleted the post, then claimed that his account had been hacked, an ever-popular excuse for prominent social media users who get caught doing something fishy.

Apple has been incredibly successful in China, with some of its high-end products enjoying higher market share in China than elsewhere. But it has also failed to conclude a deal to sell its most important product, the iPhone, through China’s number one mobile carrier, the 700-million subscriber China Mobile. And with a potential iPhone mini coming soon to boost sales in the Middle Kingdom, Apple needs good relations with Chinese business and government more than ever if it wants to make that a reality.

Unfortunately, it appears powerful interests in China may not want that to happen.

Here, we’d call it astroturfing. In China, it’s pretty much pol-bus-itics-ness as usual.

Image credit: Chinese flags/ShutterStock

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