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.