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Tim Cook Is Apple’s First CEO to Visit China

March 26, 2012

Tim Cook

Tim Cook is currently visiting China, marking the first time an Apple CEO has traveled to the country in an official capacity, many sources are reporting.

Cook met with government officials on Monday in Beijing to discuss Cupertino's plans for expansion in China, the Wall Street Journal said.

The CEO "had great meetings with Chinese officials today," Apple's China-based spokesperson Carolyn Wu told the WSJ. "China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth here."

Apple declined to name which officials Cook met with, and it did not immediately respond to questions from PCMag.

Cook has also been spotted by users of Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblog service, in the Apple Store in Beijing's Xidan district. Apple has a total of six retail stores in China: two in Beijing, three in Shanghai, and one in Hong Kong.

Demand for Apple products in China is strong and only continues to gain momentum. Cook last year notably called China, Apple's second-largest market outside of the U.S., "very key" to Apple's financial results.

During an appearance at a recent Goldman Sachs conference, Cook said the company has "had incredible success with the iPhone" in the region. In the last few years, Apple earnings there have gone from nothing to $13 billion, "so we've really been focused on trying to understand that market," he said.

There are several potential reasons behind Cook's visit to China. Apple launched the iPhone 4S on China Telecom earlier this month, marking the second carrier to support Apple's smartphone. Apple started selling the iPhone in China via China Unicom in November 2009. Back in August, there were reports that Cupertino had also inked a deal with China Mobile, but the carrier is now the only Chinese provider to not provide the iPhone. However, a China Mobile deal isn't outside the realm of possibility.

Apple is also currently engaged in a legal battle with Chinese computer monitor maker Proview, which claims to own the rights to the iPad name. In December, a Chinese court ruled in favor of Proview, which has been using the iPad brand since at least 2001. Apple said it bought the rights to the brand in 2009, though Proview claims that only applied to Taiwan, not mainland China. Recently Apple said that Proview is misleading consumers and court officials by asserting ownership of the brand.

Apple is also still dealing with concerns over working conditions at factories owned by suppliers like Foxconn. Apple has asked he Fair Labor Association (FLA) to conduct audits of its final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn. But this only came aftger a series of articles in the New York Times questioned whether Apple products are manufactured under safe and humane conditions.

Though Apple has taken steps to assure consumers that conditions are humane, there are reports of an upcoming Foxconn strike.

Regardless of the reason for Cook's visit, China is undeniably important to Apple, and Cook is taking a step that his predecessor, Steve Jobs, never did.



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