Apple CEO Tim Cook Makes Surprise Visit to China Amidst iPhone Demand Concerns


Apple's Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, paid an unexpected visit to China, where he engaged with gamers in the city of Chengdu. However, analysts suggest that the company is contending with declining iPhone demand in the country.

This marks Cook's second trip to China this year. Back in March, he emphasized the "symbiotic" relationship between Apple and China, a critical manufacturing hub for the company. Nevertheless, Apple's operations in China have faced challenges due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation and strained US-China relations.

During his visit, Cook toured Apple's Taikoo Li store and met young players of Tencent's popular online battle game, Honour of Kings. He expressed his enthusiasm on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, stating, "The energy tonight was off the charts!"

Cook highlighted the global success of Honour of Kings, which originated in Chengdu and is now a major hit on the App Store. He expressed hope that Chinese developers could replicate this achievement with software for Apple's upcoming Vision Pro augmented reality headset, which will also involve a Chinese manufacturer.

This year marks Apple's third decade of operations in China. Cook, who has been at the helm since 2011, is credited with fostering Apple's close ties with Chinese manufacturing. However, the relationship has faced challenges in recent years.

Production in China was impacted by Covid-related restrictions, and geopolitical tensions with the US raised concerns about the supply chain. Apple has also sought to expand production in India as a response.

Analysts cited by Bloomberg noted that sales of the latest iPhone have not matched those of previous models, attributing it to waning demand in China and heightened competition from rivals.

Stringent US export controls on advanced technology have posed challenges for Chinese firms like Huawei in producing models that can rival the iPhone. However, Huawei's successful launch of the Mate 60 Pro, featuring advanced Chinese-made chips, indicated that rivals are making strides.

Cook's visit coincides with notable advancements in Chinese technology. Baidu, a prominent Chinese tech company, unveiled the latest version of its Ernie AI model, claiming it to be on par with OpenAI's GPT-4 system. At the launch event led by Baidu CEO Robin Li, Ernie 4.0 demonstrated capabilities like writing a martial arts novel and creating advertising materials.

While China has developed various domestically-produced large language models, developers face stringent restrictions in the field of AI. Earlier versions of Ernie evaded sensitive topics like the Tiananmen Square crackdown and the name of a jailed former senior Communist Party figure.