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Apple CEO Tim Cook Visits China Amid Lower iPhone Sales

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly made an unannounced visit to China, one of the company’s largest markets and a manufacturing hub, as iPhone sales decline and government scrutiny intensifies.

Cook’s visit included meetings with senior officials, visits to Apple stores and a tour of a key supplier’s factory, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Friday (Oct. 20).

Apple did not immediately reply to PYMNTS’ request for comment.

Despite the popularity of Apple devices, particularly iPhones, in China, the company is facing challenges such as increased competition from domestic rivals, a sluggish consumer economy and Chinese officials’ growing suspicion of American tech companies, according to the report.

During his visit, Cook met with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, who assured him that China would continue to expand market access for foreign companies and create a market-oriented business environment, per the report. Cook expressed Apple’s appreciation for its 30-year presence in China and stated that his trip to the country was going exceptionally well.

Sales of Apple’s most popular iPhone 15 models have fallen 10% compared to similar models from the previous year, the report said, citing data from Counterpoint Research. In addition, Chinese authorities have ordered government employees not to use iPhones for work, and new rules are being discussed that could restrict foreign apps on the Chinese version of the iPhone app store.

To address these challenges, Apple could focus on increasing supplies of high-end iPhone models, which are typically the best-selling in China, the report said. The company’s supply chain in China may also undergo changes as production shifts to other locations. At the same time, Apple must navigate the political tensions between China and the United States, as both governments prioritize national-security concerns over commerce.

During his visit, Cook announced a donation of 25 million yuan (about $3.4 million) to the China Foundation for Rural Development, supporting rural development in Sichuan province, per the report. Such donations are often used by foreign businesses to demonstrate their commitment to China and strengthen relationships with policy makers.

This news comes days after it was reported that sales of the iPhone 15 in China were trailing those of its predecessor due to both lukewarm consumption in the country and competition from companies like Huawei.