Apple CEO Tim Cook expects continued growth for ‘cutting-edge’ Chinese software developers amid rising geopolitical tensions

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook has heaped encouragement and praise on Chinese software developers’ contribution to the US technology giant’s global ecosystem, according to mainland media reports on Tuesday, amid rising geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions on the mainland.

“Chinese developers have always been at the cutting edge, and I think that will continue to grow,” Cook told Chinese tech media Shaoshupai on the sidelines of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last week. This annual event was held from June 6 to 10 at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

“I cannot wait to see what you are going to do next,” Cook said. In a video released by China Daily on Tuesday, Cook was quoted as saying that the five million registered Apple developers in Greater China, which includes Hong Kong, account for about a sixth of the company’s 30-million-strong developer community around the world.

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They have made the region “one of the most vibrant developer communities in the entire world”, he said.

A large audience, including journalists and industry analysts, are seen before the start of a keynote address at the opening of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6, 2022 at the US tech giant’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. Photo: Xinhua
A large audience, including journalists and industry analysts, are seen before the start of a keynote address at the opening of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6, 2022 at the US tech giant’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. Photo: Xinhua

Cook also held talks with several Chinese developers last week, according to Chinese media reports. These include Blink Academy founder Lin Jiashu, creator of camera apps Nomo and Protake; Liang Yilun, co-founder of Hangzhou-based Miidii Tech; and Liu Wei, co-founder of video games developer miHoYo.

Shanghai-based miHoYo is the developer behind Genshin Impact, which had the biggest-ever launch for a Chinese game in September 2020.

An Apple representative on Tuesday said the company does not disclose the timing of those discussions.

While Cook’s keynote at the WWDC this year did not specifically mention the Greater China market, he has retained the goodwill of Chinese software developers, media reports on the mainland said.

Apple to accelerate reduction in supply chain reliance on China amid lockdowns

Cook has had a track record of praising the Chinese market, its consumers and developers in previous editions of the WWDC. In 2018, for example, he said Apple’s QR code and dual subscriber identity module features were inspired by what Chinese consumers demand.

In 2019, the number of Chinese developers working on apps carried by Apple’s online App Store doubled to 5 million from 2.5 million.

That growth was partially attributed to the opening in the same year of Apple’s design and development accelerator in Shanghai, which provides support for programmers working on its various platforms including iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS and tvOS.

Cook’s recent discussions with a new generation of Chinese software developers reflect Apple’s long-standing business interests in the country, the company’s second-largest market and its primary location for contract manufacturing with suppliers such as Foxconn Technology Group.

Apple, under Cook, has maintained a smooth relationship with Beijing, despite some sporadic consumer boycotts of the firm’s products in China. Cook heads up the advisory committee for the economic management school at Tsinghua University, which gives him access to China’s national leaders.

Cook signed an agreement with government officials, estimated to be worth about US$275 billion, to help China develop its technological prowess and to head off state action which would have hobbled Apple’s devices and services in the country, according to a report by tech media outlet The Information at the end of last year.

Global smartphone shipments to shrink in 2022 amid China supply chain disruptions

Still, Apple has been challenged by China’s strict zero-Covid-19 policy, which has resulted in major disruptions at its mainland supply chain, including closed factories and rising logistics costs.

Primary Apple supplier Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, has already shifted some production capacity to Vietnam, as Covid-19 restrictions continue to weigh on its operations.

In April, Apple chief financial officer Luca Maestri said in an earnings call that Covid-19-related lockdowns and the global chip shortage would reduce the company’s revenue by up to US$8 billion in the June quarter.

Apple had already started to consider reducing its reliance on China, but the recent lockdowns have accelerated the process, according to TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

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