Apple’s Tim Cook takes the stage in China with a welcome cheer

BEIJING – Apple from Inc

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Tim Cook took the stage at an economic conference in Beijing sponsored by the Chinese government on Saturday and gave a buoyant speech that was welcomed with applause.

The treatment his counterpart at TikTok received in Washington days earlier couldn’t have been more different: hours of questioning by lawmakers about the short video platform’s links to Beijing.

Mr Cook, on his first known visit to China since the start of the pandemic, exchanged views with a former official of the forum’s organizer for about half an hour from a TED Talk-style podium set up in the historic Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.

“I am very happy to be back in China,” the CEO told the China Development Forum, organized by a State Council research center. “It means the world to me and I feel really privileged to be here.”

Mr. Cook shared how Apple and China have grown together over the three decades since the company entered the country — on which it has relied both as a manufacturing hub and as a fast-growing consumer market. “This has been a symbiotic relationship that we’ve both enjoyed,” he said.

He also answered questions about the importance of education from Lu Mai, a former official of the China Development Research Foundation, the organizer of the forum. Mr. Cook said Apple is committing 100 million yuan, equivalent to about $14.6 million, to help fund educational projects run by the foundation, a unit affiliated with the State Council’s research center.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified Thursday at a U.S. House committee hearing in Washington.


Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Like Mr. Cook, TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew runs one of the world’s most high-profile tech services. TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd. That puts it at the center of the growing strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing, with bilateral relations at their lowest point in decades.

During a House hearing that lasted more than five hours on Thursday, Mr. Chew – a Singaporean national – has been the victim of scathing attacks on TikTok as he tried to defend that the company would gain the trust of lawmakers.

In a rare bipartisan display, Democrats and Republicans questioned him repeatedly on similar issues, sometimes leaving him unable to finish his sentences. TikTok later said political grandeur had dominated the hearing.

Apple didn’t immediately comment on why it was important for Cook to attend the Chinese government-sponsored conference at a time of rising tensions between the US and China. In 2017, Mr Cook said it was important not to be a bystander in China if you want to bring about change. This is the fifth time he has attended the annual forum, Mr. Lu of the foundation said.

Mr. Cook is one of dozens of US and other foreign executives attending or will attend the three-day conference that began Saturday. This year’s forum comes as China seeks foreign investment to revive its faltering economic recovery, while at the same time relations with its largest trading partners in the West have soured.

For US business leaders, the risk of potential repercussions from being seen as bums in Beijing is high, given that senior US government officials have postponed China. In February, Washington indefinitely postponed a visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a suspected Chinese spy balloon drifted over the US

In some sessions on Saturday, geopolitical tensions loomed like the elephant in the room. On stage, many multinational executives failed to address the business implications of deteriorating relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Qualcomm Inc.

CEO Cristiano Amon focused his speech on the digital transformation and 5G, and their potential to boost business and productivity in society at large. When The Wall Street Journal later asked him how he felt about visiting China because political ties were sour, Mr. Amon with a smile and a “thank you” as he walked away.

In a session on rebuilding supply chains, multinational companies were represented by top executives from Australian and German companies.

Cristiano Amon, CEO of Qualcomm, attended the development forum in Beijing on Saturday.



In other sessions, senior advisers to the Chinese government focused primarily on topics Beijing considers vital to the country’s economic future, including carbon neutrality, technology innovation and health care.

Still, some went further, pointing to high inflation and the banking crisis as two risks to the global economy emanating from the US. At the same time, they praised Beijing’s ability to manage its debt and economic headwinds.

“Some developed countries have tightened their monetary policy sharply, bringing spillover effects such as bank failures, foreign debt problems and financial market turmoil,” said Han Wenxiu, deputy chief of the General Bureau of the Central Commission for Financial and Economic Affairs. Affairs.

Among the handful of foreign speakers addressing the geopolitical tension was Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council, which advises and lobbies for US companies operating in the country.

In a session on the business climate in China, Mr. All the increasing risks faced by US companies. Those include political, regulatory and economic risks, as well as risks associated with China’s technology and economic policies to enhance self-reliance.

“Rising costs, increasing risks and perceptions of lower growth make it increasingly difficult for CEOs to convince their boards to make major investments in China,” he said.

Write to Yoko Kubota at

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