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 blockchain and fintech reporter. When she isn't obsessing over the rise of distributed ledger technology in China, she helps with editing.

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