Apple’s Tim Cook, suddenly embattled in China after the company’s book and movie services were suspended by the government two weeks ago, will visit Beijing later this month to meet with government officials, according to Reuters.
Cook is one of the more frequent business visitors to the country, his trips reflecting the importance of the Chinese market. Since it announced it would sell iPhones in China in 2013, Apple’s stock rose steadily to its all-time high last year. Sales in Greater China now drive a quarter of Apple’s $230 billion-plus annual revenue.
But recently its only distressing news coming out of China for Apple (AAPL). First, Apple’s book and movie services were suspended in mid-April thanks to new Chinese regulations pressuring Western content. Then this week it lost a ruling in Beijing court on a trademark dispute with a Chinese leather goods maker that will be allowed to continue stamping IPHONE on purses.
There’s also the pressure Cook is facing in the U.S.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn publicly announced he had sold his stake in Apple on concerns about Apple’s relationship with the Chinese government. When asked on CNBC if China’s “government interference” was the reason he sold all of his Apple stock, Icahn said, “That is the main reason that, yeah, I got out.”
Cook will visit senior Communist Party officials, including officials in the propaganda department, the regulator of media, Reuters said.
Cook is putting on a good face. “We remain really optimistic on China,” he said on Apple’s earnings call last week. But the truth is he can’t know how shifting government pressures will affect the world’s largest tech company. As the new regulations behind the recent suspension of Apple’s services attest, China’s government lead by Xi Jinping is pressuring Western content and companies. On the same earnings call, Cook wasn’t asked a single question about government pressures in China. He didn’t offer his thoughts.
Separately, Disney (DIS) CEO Bob Iger met Xi Jinping today to promote bilateral ties between the U.S. and China. The meeting comes two weeks after Disney’s online streaming service called DisneyLife was suspended in China.