Tim Cook was visibly excited at the Chaoyang Future School in Beijing on Wednesday, watching high school students use Apple Pencils on iPads.
“I’m incredibly impressed by the talent and passion of your students, teachers and staff,”
the Apple chief executive wrote in a post in Chinese and English on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
His note gushed about being at “truly a model school” that used a curriculum promoted by Apple. Keep in mind that Apple accounted for about one-quarter of mobile phone sales in China last year, and analysts say China is on course to overtake the US as Apple’s biggest market.
As a result it should come as no surprise that Cook regularly visits China to deal with the tech giant’s business there or in his capacity on the board at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. Apple is also building a joint research center with Tsinghua that will focus on advanced technologies, including machine learning and computer vision, a subject Apple and other tech giants are keen to become involved in.
This week, Tim has been on a one-man charm offensive to promote Apple products, including the new iPhone XS Max, which sells for a whopping 1,850 USD in China. A top-end phone by local manufacturer Huawei retails for about 700 USD. As such, sales of the new Apple phone have been disappointing, the business publication Caixin reported after interviewing authorized retailers, hence the charming offensive.
Cook is expected to attend a board meeting at Tsinghua while in Beijing. But an Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on whether he will meet with the Chinese president, as he did during his visit this time last year. She also declined to divulge what else was on his schedule or how long he will be in China.
Regardless, Cook’s top priority this week is remaining in China’s good books.
“Tim Cook has got to cozy up to the local customers, but more importantly, to local officials,” said Bryan Ma, a technology analyst at IDC, an international market research firm. “Part of the messaging that he is probably hoping to establish while he is here is to emphasize how important China is to his company.”
That message was received loud and clear in Shanghai.
“We are willing to … find mutual benefit and win-win results, and to inject new vitality into Shanghai’s development,” Li Qian, secretary of the Communist Party in Shanghai, said after meeting with Cook. But he made it clear that Apple must do its part on bilateral relations
“We are hoping that Apple will play a bigger role in promoting exchanges and cooperation between Shanghai and the United States,” Li said, according to a statement from his office.