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Question
Dear Ted,
The following is an article about the Apple company. In the last paragraph, what is the meaning of the words "benign" and "cynical"? I'm sorry if the article is too long.

Did China Just Declare War On Apple?  Sure Looks Like It.

On Friday, Chinese state media reported that, from January of last year to the end of last month, more than 20,000 college students in the central city of Wuhan applied for 160 million yuan of “high-interest rate loans” from Home Credit China. The finance company was charging rates of up to 47.12% for one-year money.
Beijing’s saturation coverage mentioned Home Credit China’s unsavory lending practices, but that was not the primary point of the reporting. The reporting, based on a Xinhua News Agency dispatch, complained that Chinese students, who were generally portrayed as victims, were buying “fancy electronic products,” especially from Apple.
The Xinhua reporting was notable in that it was the second attack on the iconic American brand in as many weeks. On the 15th of this month—World Consumer Rights Day—China Central Television severely criticized Apple’s warranty practices.
The state broadcaster’s annual investigative program, “3.15,” noted that the company discriminated against Chinese iPhone owners, offering shorter guarantees than in other countries, using refurbished rather than new parts, and shirking after-sale obligations. Last August, Apple modified its policies, but Xinhua said they were still “unfair.” The company’s repair practices “caused some provincial consumer watchdogs to include the firm on a ‘company integrity’ blacklist.”
CCTV’s program, which has run for 23 years, has nationwide bite, calling out consumer-products companies and hitting them where it hurts, their sales and stock prices. On Weibo, China’s extraordinarily popular Twitter-like service, Apple was mentioned 50,000 times in the first hour after the show’s segment on the company aired. Most of the comments were critical of the brand.
For instance, Peter Ho, a Taiwanese-American actor with 5.3 million Weibo followers, posted this on the microblogging site: “#315isLive# Actually, Apple has so many tricks in its after-sales services. As an Apple fan, I’m hurt. Have you done right by your founder Jobs? Have you done right by the young people who sold their kidneys? It’s really true that big stores bully customers. Post around 8:20.”
“Post around 8:20”? Ho had goofed. The movie star uploaded not only his sharply critical posting at 8:26 P.M., but he also posted the instructions he received from some other party. He is a Samsung Galaxy spokesman, but no one is fingering the Korean brand as the culprit.
So who told Ho to post “around 8:20”? For China’s noisy netizens, there was only one suspect: CCTV. Weibo users immediately pounced, noting that there were other anti-Apple postings around that time. By 8:45 P.M. comments criticizing the inattentive Mr. Ho were overwhelming the anti-Apple postings.
Ho, at 10:08 P.M., deleted his original posting and then denied he authored the attack on Apple, claiming that someone had “hacked” his Weibo account. Just about nobody believed the denial. Users began posting acerbic comments with the #PostAround8:20 hashtag. Weibo censors later deleted tens of thousands of postings with that hashtag.
The incident is now being called “Ho-gate” in China. CCTV got caught red-handed orchestrating a broad-based follow-up campaign to its 3.15 program. “Weibo and CCTV often work together to coordinate discussion on the social networking site, asking high-profile Weibo users with large numbers of followers to comment after programming or to weigh in on big issues,” reports the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report blog, relying on someone who had been asked to participate.
Is Beijing beginning a campaign against Apple? The best way to avoid attention on 3.15 is to advertise on CCTV, so perhaps there is a simple explanation for this year’s attack on the brand: the broadcaster was giving the company a powerful incentive to purchase ad time on its channels. Unfortunately, that relatively benign—and cynical—interpretation is probably too optimistic. As we saw from Friday’s countrywide reporting on student purchasing habits, Beijing is continuing its attack on Apple. Executives in Cupertino should get worried that the 3.15 show is not a one-off.

Answer
Dear Glen:

I had to read the article a few times to understand the controversy.  It seems that the controversy between Apple and Weibo may be enhanced further by the involvement of CCTV.

Is Beijing beginning a campaign against Apple? The best way to avoid attention
on 3.15 is to advertise on CCTV, so perhaps there is a simple explanation for
this year’s attack on the brand: the broadcaster was giving the company a
powerful incentive to purchase ad time on its channels. Unfortunately, that
relatively benign—and cynical—interpretation is probably too optimistic. As we
saw from Friday’s countrywide reporting on student purchasing habits, Beijing is
continuing its attack on Apple. Executives in Cupertino should get worried that
the 3.15 show is not a one-off.

The word "benign" means "favorable" and "warm-hearted."  In other words, CCTV just wanted
Apple to "purchase ad time on its channels."  Supposedly, the broadcast was extending
an offer to Apple; the offer was supposedly intended to ward off potential "economic
warfare."  The writer of this message says that the offer was "benign," that it was not meant to do any harm.  But, he calls the deal "cynical," meaning that he does not believe that the controversy will end, because of the benign gesture.

The opposite of "benign" is "malignant," which means "to cause harm."  It seems to me that the author is suggesting that the "incentive" is much more serious.  He advises the Apple executive [in Cupertino, California] should be WORRIED about its future in China.  These executives should be worried that the so-called incentives may be the first step in destroying [harming] the Apple Company and all of its products.  He is predicting that Apple's role
in Chinese communication is going to be severely limited, if not actually suppressed.

That's how I interpret the article.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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