Tim Cook visits China for a state-sponsored summit

Apple CEO Tim Cook is in China this weekend, paying a visit to a local Apple Store and attending a state-sponsored “China business summit.” As reported by Bloomberg, Cook is one of very few US executives set to attend the conference, “underscoring the growing delicacy of doing business in China in the current geopolitical climate.”

According to the report, Cook and Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla are among the “few US chiefs attending” the China business summit this week. In total, “a hundred foreign representatives have registered to attend” the event, but the participant list is “light on US companies” this year.

Other attendees from the US include Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio and Invesco president Martin Flanagan.

Cook and Bourla are attending the conference in person. This marks the first time that the event has been held in person since 2019 due to COVID-19 and China’s strict guidelines in response to the pandemic. Cook attended the conference in person back in 2019, as well.

The report explains:

While US companies may not have been the biggest contingent in past editions either, this year’s tepid lineup is indicative of a desire by American companies to keep a low profile around their corporate activities in China for fear of drawing unwanted attention back home, according to one Beijing-based executive familiar with their thinking.

Specifically, companies don’t want to become a target of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, a new congressional body led by Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, according to at least three people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly.

China has not made the optics easier for American businesses. President Xi Jinping’s trip this week to Moscow, where he was greeted warmly by Russian President Vladimir Putin — recently accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court — is also weighing on the minds of executives, one of the people said.

While in China ahead of the China business summit, Tim Cook also paid a visit to the Apple Sanlitun retail store, where he took in a performance by Chinese singer Huang Ling. Cook posted about the visit on his Weibo account:

Wonderful to see our amazing customers and team at Apple Sanlitun. Thank you to Huang Ling for the tremendous performance. Good luck with your upcoming tour.

According to local reports, Cook also participated in a “Creative Camp” session as part of Apple’s “Today at Apple” retail initiative.

Cook’s visit to China comes as Apple is actively looking to diversify its supply chain beyond China. The company, along with partners like Foxconn and TSMC, is investing heavily in new production facilities in India and the United States.

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Naveen Kumar

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