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Tim Cook will attend a big Chinese tech conference in Seattle and the Obama administration isn't happy

Eugene Kim
tim cook china
tim cook china

(China Daily/Reuters)
Apple CEO Tim Cook gestures as he speaks at Tsinghua University in Beijing October 23, 2014.

Some of the most powerful tech leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, are expected to attend a huge Chinese tech conference hosted by Microsoft later this month, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The conference, scheduled for September 23 in Seattle, will have Chinese President Xi Jinping and its internet czar Lu Wei, who's in charge of imposing Chinese restrictions on foreign tech companies — setting up a huge stage for American tech leaders to meet with some of China's top government officials.

Other notable figures slated to attend the event include Alibaba's Jack Ma and Baidu's Robin Li, as well as execs from Facebook, IBM, Google, and Uber, the report said. President Xi is also scheduled to meet with Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates for a private dinner, it added.

“The meeting is mostly to discuss the industry cooperation of the two countries, and big companies from China and the U.S., like Google, will all be there,” Zuo Xiaodong, the VP of the China Information Security Research Institute, told the NY Times.

But the conference is already causing some concerns among US officials, as it could potentially undermine the US government's efforts to deal with China's hard stance against American tech companies. The NY Times wrote:

The meeting is rankling the Obama administration by veering off the script agreed to for Mr. Xi’s carefully stage-managed visit, two American officials said. There are also concerns the meeting could undercut President Obama’s stern line on China by portraying its leadership as constructively engaging American companies about doing business in China, even as the administration suggests American companies are hurt by anticompetitive Chinese practices.

But with so many of the leading American tech companies attending the event, it signals that they are still willing to work with the Chinese government, despite all the restrictions imposed on them in the Chinese market. Part of the reason is because China is the world's biggest internet market by users and continues to grow its influence in the global tech landscape.

Facebook and Google are some of the biggest tech brands banned from operating in China, while companies like Qualcomm and Microsoft have faced government investigations over its pricing and business practices in recent years. After the Microsoft-hosted event, President Xi will fly to Washington to meet President Obama.

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