Tim Cook has praised Apple’s symbiotic relationship with China despite rising trade and geopolitical tensions between Beijing and the US, and the iPhone maker’s moves to diversify outside the country.
On his first visit to China since the pandemic began in 2020, the Apple chief said that this year the company will celebrate its 30th anniversary in the country that makes the bulk of its iPhones.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Cook said at the China Development Forum in Beijing, the country’s own version of Davos, which Beijing is holding offline for the first time since the pandemic began. “Apple and China . . . grew together and so this was kind of a symbiotic relationship.”
Cook is one of several top US businessmen in Beijing for what has been described as an inauguration ceremony after three years of a strict anti-COVID policy.
In a sign of how positively the US tech company continues to be viewed in one of its largest markets as well, Cook’s trip was covered by Chinese state media as customers applauded at the group’s flagship store in Beijing when he visited the store on Friday.
The trip comes after one of Apple’s toughest years in China in 2022, as President Xi Jinping’s Zero-Covid grips brutal supply chains.
Apple’s quarterly revenue fell in the three months to the end of December for the first time in three and a half years after “significant” supply chain disruptions in China delayed iPhone deliveries over the holiday period.
Foxconn, the company’s biggest supplier, faced workforce disruptions in the eastern Chinese city of Zhengzhou where analysts estimate 60 percent of iPhones are made, after authorities locked down the area as part of zero Covid controls in November.
Meanwhile, the United States has increased export controls over China’s use of advanced chip technology, souring the mood for major American investors in the country.
Some users on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, posted images that contrasted Cook’s warm reception at his Beijing store on Friday with Shou Zi Chew, the head of Chinese short-video app TikTok, who was questioned by the US Congress last week.
Cook avoided mentioning US-China tensions and supply chain issues, in a session on technology and education at the China Development Forum.
“We have a very large supply chain operation in China and then of course we also have . . . Apple Stores,” he said, adding that the company has millions of developers in the country for its iOS operating system.
“From the moment we hit the ground yesterday, we couldn’t wait to see some of our customers, so we went to the Sanliutn store. [in Beijing],” He said.
Apple is trying to build operations in India as part of its diversification strategy, sending engineers and designers to the country for weeks or months at a time to oversee manufacturing. While it has been producing entry-level iPhones in India since 2017, it has recently started trying higher-end models that are usually made in China.
With additional reporting by Ryan McMurrah
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