Apple’s Tim Cook meets with China’s vice premier Li Keqiang


A handout photo shows Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., center, visiting the iPhone production line at the Foxconn Technology Group facility in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China, on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. Cook visited the iPhone production line at the newly built manufacturing facility Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park Wednesday (Bowen Liu/VIA BLOOMBERG)
March 29, 2012

Apple chief executive Tim Cook met with China’s vice premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday, solidifying ties in one of the company’s fastest-growing markets.

Cook met with Li to discuss intellectual property issues. According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, Cook and Li discussed how the Chinese government could work with multinational corporations to improve cooperation. The meeting was framed as a sign that the Chinese government is building a relationship with Apple.

That relationship is a complicated one. Apple currently faces three major problems in China: cracking the market, dealing with intellectual property disputes and managing the factory conditions in its supply chain.

It’s estimated that Apple will be able to sell up to 40 million iPhones in China by the end of the year, and Cook has mentioned several times that China is a strong market for the company. As Apple is making its push, however, a Chinese manufacturer is making trouble for the company’s iPad.

A high court in the city of Guangdong is currently mulling a decision in the case between Apple and Proview, a Chinese electronics maker that claims Apple did not properly purchase the trademark to the iPad in mainland China. Apple says that it purchased the rights to the iPad name from Proview in 2009. The dispute prompted some government officials to pull tablets from store shelves in February. The WiFi version of the new iPad has been cleared for sale on mainland China, All Things Digital reported Tuesday.

The report from Xinhua did not mention if Cook and Li did specifically discussed the case or the problems facing the iPad.

According to the report, the two did discuss working conditions in Chinese factories. Apple has faced scrutiny over the labor practices in its supplier factories in China, particularly at Foxconn. Before meeting with the vice premier, Cook also met with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong and visited Foxconn factories. It was Cook’s first trip to China as Apple’s chief executive, though he had visited as chief operating officer when he was building up Apple’s enviable supply chain.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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