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Made-in-India iPhone 15 spark racist stereotypes, barrage of misinformation in China

The release of Apple’s newest product, the iPhone 15, has stirred a wave of speculation on Chinese social media platforms. Numerous online speculations have surfaced, hinting at a distinct distribution strategy for this device.

Some suggest that the Chinese-manufactured iPhone 15 is earmarked for exclusive availability in the European and American markets. At the same time, the Indian-produced version will be primarily tailored to cater to the Chinese consumer base.

Speculation surrounding the release of Apple’s latest iPhone 15 has triggered some Chinese consumers to express their opinions, unfortunately resorting to racial slurs and stereotypical comments directed at Indians.

Numerous Weibo posts about the iPhone’s launch have featured sarcastic remarks from users. In one such tweet, a user facetiously remarked, “The initial release seems quite random. First, let’s tear off the packaging and savor the aroma of curry; it’s alright in India; it’s clean and hygienic, folks.”

In another post, concerns were raised about Indian workers consuming curry rice with their hands, potentially touching their mobile devices after wiping their eyes. This led to insinuations that iPhones manufactured in India might not undergo adequate sanitation.

The post implied that individuals with stringent cleanliness preferences might hesitate to handle such phones, suggesting that Indian-made iPhones could have an unpleasant odor akin to “corpse rice.” These comments reinforce stereotypes and biases related to hygiene.

A Bloomberg report titled “Apple to Sell Made-in-India iPhones on Launch Day for the First Time” triggered a series of rumors regarding the sequential availability of iPhones in European and Chinese markets. According to the report, the Chinese-manufactured variant of the iPhone 15 will exclusively debut in European markets, while the Indian-made version will be reserved for the Chinese market.

Amidst the controversy, a trending hashtag emerged on Weibo, roughly translated as ‘If you buy a new phone in China, you might get an iPhone made in India.’ This hashtag garnered significant attention and was flooded with unverified claims, memes, and misinformation regarding iPhone manufacturing in India.

Users took to their posts to share advice on what to do if they inadvertently purchased an Indian-made Apple product. In addition, some users erroneously labeled India as a backward Southeast Asian country regarding production capabilities.

Journalist Wenhao posted a thread on X, highlighting how certain Chinese accounts have targeted India due to its expanding role in Apple’s manufacturing network. A false claim also circulated, alleging that 50% of the iPhone 15 units made in India were returned.

However, a report published by China Daily, a prominent state media outlet, cited Apple officials who refuted these claims. They clarified that the iPhone 15 series made in China is not exclusively intended for European and American markets, and the Indian-produced iPhone 15 lineup is not solely tailored for the Chinese market.

Additional details shared with China Daily unveiled that India currently plays a relatively minor role, contributing only around 7 percent of the total iPhone production. China continues to dominate the production landscape, holding a substantial 90 percent share.

Apple’s starting the iPhone 15 manufacturing in India, overseen by Foxconn in Tamil Nadu, aligns with the company’s broader strategy to diversify its production operations beyond China’s borders. Apple aims to significantly boost its production in India, targeting around $40 billion over the next 4 to 5 years.

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