Apple CEO Tim Cook started a three-year term as a top adviser at Tsinghua University, China’s most prestigious academic institution, chairing his first meeting on October 18, according to the school website.

Why it matters: Cook’s appointment places him at the heart of Beijing’s goal to increase the gravitas of Chinese universities.

  • Apple’s relationship with Chinese authorities is under fire, after the Silicon Valley company pulled an app that tracks police activity in Hong Kong amid months-long protests.

“In the next three years, I will work with all of the board members to promote the development of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and to lead the effort to build it into a world-class school.”

—Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Details: The university announced Cook’s participation in the advisory board meeting and his mandate on its WeChat account.

  •  The board was established in 2000 with the aim to make the school a world-class institution. It is comprised of entrepreneurs, scholars, and Chinese Communist Party officials, among others.
  • The day before the advisory board convened, Cook met with Xiao Yaqing, director of China’s State Administration for Market Regulation in Beijing and “conducted in-depth exchanges on expanding investment and business development in China, protecting consumer rights and fulfilling corporate social responsibility,” according to the governmental body’s website.

Context: Apple is one of few Silicon Valley giants whose products are allowed in the Chinese market, along with Microsoft and Oracle.

  • The company has been criticized for its activities related to China, such as harsh working conditions at its manufacturing partner Foxconn’s factories, censorship, and privacy concerns.
  • On October 10, Apple removed a crowd-sourced map from its App Store that helped Hong Kong protesters keep track of police, following criticism from Chinese state-owned media outlets.
  •  Cook defended the move, saying that it was removed because it was in breach of the law.
  • About two weeks ago, news site Quartz was also removed from the App store, a move that its CEO attributed to coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
  • Earlier in October, the Taiwanese flag emoji disappeared from the iOS keyboard.

Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza is TechNode's community listening reporter at the Shanghai office. She acts as a link between the editorial team and TechNode Squared members. She previously worked as a reporter for WikiTribune...

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