Google and Facebook make intangible web products that are easily replicable. Baidu is the leading search site in China, which also has many Facebook and Tumblr look a likes that are growing users in the millions.
Apple makes products, hardware, that you need to touch and feel. The iPhone, iPad, and Apple computers are virtually impossible to replicate.
The difference between Apple and web companies like Google and Facebook is the difference between success and failure in China.
As a company/brand, you need to do three things to succeed in China:
(1) Make a product that can’t be easily copied. Chinese consumers will place a premium on legitimate items they can’t find elsewhere.
(2) Make a product that doesn’t threaten China’s Community Party. China’s government controls information, any network that facilitates information like Google and Facebook is therefore a menace.
(3) Make a product that is universally understood. Apple’s icon is a fruit, Google and Facebook have logos embedded into their names.
Apple is a respected worldwide brand known for quality of product and customer service. If you want to beat them, you have to join them, simple as that. And that’s exactly what the Chinese government is doing, forcing fake Apple stores in China to close down while Apple opens up legitimate new stores.
Apple is more powerful than a search and social network, and it’s got record breaking revenues to prove it. Story short, if you want win in China, make an irresistible physical product that can’t be reproduced.