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    Monday, March 25, 2024

    Apple CEO Extols Chinese Suppliers at Beijing Forum as iPhone Sales Dip While Huawei Gains

    Apple chief executive Tim Cook lauded the "huge contribution" that Chinese suppliers have made to the iPhone maker's carbon-neutral goals, at a high-profile summit hosted by the Chinese government and attended by Premier Li Qiang.

    At the China Development Forum, which kicked off in Beijing on Sunday and runs through Monday, Cook took to the stage to address high-profile attendees that include top-level Chinese government officials and more than 80 foreign business executives.

    Chinese suppliers "are not just receptive to the [carbon neutrality] goal, they've been innovating and figuring out new ways of doing things", he said.

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    Cook's appearance at the forum, Beijing's answer to the World Economic Forum's summit in Davos, Switzerland, was the latest stop of the CEO's jam-packed trip in China, where the US giant has been struggling with declining sales while trying to diversify the geographic footprint of its supply chain.

    On Friday, Cook met China's commerce minister Wang Wentao to discuss Apple's operations in the country and Sino-US economic and trade ties, according to a statement from the Ministry of Commerce.

    "China has a massive market ... highly-qualified talent and a stable and open business environment ... this means huge opportunities for global companies, including Apple," the statement read. "China welcomes Apple to deepen its foothold in the country."

    Apple has been shifting some of its production to countries such as India and Vietnam amid rising US-China tensions, and after stringent pandemic restrictions in late 2022 triggered workers' unrest and delayed shipments at the world's largest iPhone plant, located in Zhengzhou, China.

    During his meeting with Wang, Cook said Apple is committed to long-term development in the country and will keep investing in research and development and the supply chain there, according to the statement.

    "There's no supply chain in the world that's more critical to us than China," Cook was quoted as saying in an interview with state media China Daily published on Wednesday.

    Apple said earlier this month that it plans to expand its research centre in Shanghai. It also said it will open a new lab in Shenzhen later this year, which is expected to boost its testing and research capabilities for key products, including the iPhone, iPad and Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, according to a company statement.

    The company is also exploring a tie-up with Chinese internet search and artificial intelligence giant Baidu to install its Ernie chatbot on iPhones sold in the country, according to a report on Friday by The Wall Street Journal.

    Apple is under mounting pressure in the world's largest smartphone market, where the iPhone faces" stiff competition at the high end from a resurgent Huawei [Technologies], while getting squeezed in the middle on aggressive pricing by the likes of Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi", according to market consultancy Counterpoint.

    iPhone sales on the mainland fell 24 per cent year on year in the first six weeks of 2024, Counterpoint said.

    Apple reported a nearly 13 per cent drop in December-quarter revenue from Greater China, which comprises the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

    In addition to Cook, foreign executives attending this year's China Development Forum include Amin Nasser, president and CEO at Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company Aramco, Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of US energy giant ExxonMobil, and HSBC group CEO Noel Quinn.

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