Tim Cook touted Apple’s close ties with China during a high-profile weekend trip to the country – even as rising tensions between the US and Beijing prompt increased scrutiny of businesses like fellow tech giant TikTok.
Cook was reportedly greeted with applause as he took the stage at the state-sponsored China Development Forum in Beijing in what was his first in-person trip to the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
“This has been a symbiotic kind of relationship that I think we both enjoyed,” Cook said while discussing Apple’s growth in China, according to Bloomberg.
The trip represented the latest step in a high-wire act for Cook, who is aiming to maintain Apple’s operations in China without drawing the ire of US lawmakers increasingly wary of Beijing’s influence over US companies.
Cook visited an Apple retail store location in Beijing during the trip, according to Bloomberg.
He also met with Chinese government officials.
For Apple, China represents a key manufacturing hub for hardware, including its all-important iPhones.
It’s also a major sales market, generating nearly $75 billion in revenue last fiscal year alone.
Apple has faced criticism for complying with Chinese censorship laws in its App Store even as it touts a commitment to data privacy and human rights.
The iPhone maker’s efforts in China were complicated in recent months by Beijing’s “Covid Zero” policy, which forced factory shutdowns that led to product shortages during the key holiday shopping season.
Apple has also contended with growing unrest at its manufacturing plants in China, which culminated in violent clashes between workers and local authorities at a plant run by key supplier Foxconn last year.
The frayed relations between the US and China were on full display last week as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced brutal bipartisan questioning during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Chinese social media platform Weibo was flooded with posts comparing Cook’s reception in Beijing to that of Chew in Washington DC, the Financial Times reported.
House lawmakers grilled Chew with questions about TikTok parent ByteDance’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party, as well as the popular video-sharing app’s failure to crack down on harmful content on its platform.
The Biden administration has reportedly told top ByteDance officials that they must divest their stakes in TikTok or the app will be banned in the US.
China has vowed to “oppose” any forced sale of TikTok, despite Chew’s insistence that there are no direct ties between ByteDance and the Chinese government.
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