Apple CEO Tim Cook meets with new Premier Li Qiang on trip to reaffirm commitment to China market

·3 min read

Apple CEO Tim Cook met China's new premier Li Qiang and other top officials on Monday as part of a trip to reaffirm the US tech giant's commitment to the market amid supply chain shifts and geopolitical uncertainties.

Cook met Li on Monday afternoon as part of a delegation of C-level executives and scholars from overseas attending the government-organised China Development Forum (CDF) in Beijing, according to footage aired by Chinese state television's prime-time news show Xinwen Lianbo.

Li, who assumed the role as Chinese premier this month, told the delegation that the current global economy is in a difficult period with complications and changes, and that companies should take a long-term view in view of the challenges.

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China is deeply integrated with the global system, Li said, as he reassured the representatives that China would continue to open up and provide a top-tier business environment despite changes in geopolitical affairs.

On the same day Cook also met Wang Wentao, China's Minister of Commerce, where they discussed "Apple's development in China and the stabilisation of the industry supply chain", according to a statement by the ministry.

Wang also said in his meeting with Cook that the Chinese government is willing to provide a good environment and services to foreign companies including Apple.

Cook's trip to China, his first since the Covid-19 pandemic, has been seen as a demonstration of the company's commitment to the world's biggest smartphone market amid economic decoupling risks and an ongoing supply chain shift.

Apple and its contract manufacturers have been relocating some of their production lines out of mainland China to places such as Vietnam and India, following production disruptions at the biggest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, Henan province last November, fuelled by Covid-19 outbreaks.

However, even though Apple suppliers are looking to step up production expansion outside China, the country remains a key market for the smartphone maker.

The iPhone 13 was the bestselling smartphone in China in 2022 with a 6.6 per cent market share, with Apple taking the top three spots in the country, according to a report by Counterpoint Research on Monday. Apple was also the No. 1 smartphone player in the fourth quarter, taking up 23.7 per cent of the China market as it achieved its highest-ever quarterly share, earlier data from Counterpoint showed.

Cook went on a charm offensive and seen visiting the Apple Store in Beijing's Sanlitun area, the company's biggest shop in Asia, on Friday afternoon. Cook was surrounded by crowds and took selfies with shoppers, and trended on Chinese social media.

At the CDF that commenced on Saturday, Cook told the audience that Apple and China have enjoyed a "symbiotic" relationship during the company's past 30 years of development in the country, according to Chinese media reports. Cook also announced that Apple will increase its funding for educational projects in China to 100 million yuan (US$14.5 million).

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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