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Apple's promotional center sparks controversy on Chinese campus

September 15, 2011 |  1:06 am

Apple in China

Apple may be one of the hottest aspirational brands in China, but students from the country's most prestigious university are accusing the company of invading precious study space by opening a promotional center inside a campus library.

The glass-enclosed Apple Experience Center will occupy about 430 square feet in a former study area on the third floor of Peking University's main library, according to the People’s Daily.

Students will get to tool around on Apple gadgets to help with their studies and order products at a discount, the state-run newspaper reported.

But some students say the center inappropriately combines consumerism with academics –- a mix that is already more than familiar on American campuses.

"It's totally against the spirit and environment of the library," said a student surnamed Chen, according to the People's Daily. "Apple should have discounts or give-back activities if they want self-promotion, other than introducing this commercial thing into a sacred place like this."

Other students noted that competition is fierce for seats inside the library and that the center would only make a shortage of study space worse.

"They shouldn’t take up precious self-study facilities," Xiao Wu, a student, told the National Business Daily.

The center is being managed by a licensed Apple dealer called Shanghai Lianyu Technology Development Co.

Nine universities in China feature similar centers, though all in non-academic areas of campus, according to Apple's Chinese website.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has experienced phenomenal growth in China in recent years, capturing a cult-like following among the country's growing middle and upper classes.

The company's revenue in greater China, which includes Hong Kong, reached $8.8 billion the first three quarters of this year -– six times more than a year ago.

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-- David Pierson

Twitter.com/dhpierson 

Photo: Shoppers try out computers at the Apple store in Beijing. Credit: Chien-min Chung / Los Angeles Times

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