Business & Technology

Tim Cook

The business icon makes headlines in China — again.

CEO, Apple

Cook isn’t just the CEO of one of the world’s most valuable companies; he’s also a public figure in China, a country that worships its business icons. In late 2014, when Cook came out as gay, it made waves in Chinese social media, where homosexuality is increasingly accepted, even as the country’s laws continue to prohibit same-sex marriage. More recently, Cook made headlines with Apple’s $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing, a well-connected Chinese company that competed with San Francisco-based Uber in China. The investment was widely reported as a “charm offensive” intended to make China happy — but after Didi acquired Uber’s China operations in August, it also looks like good business.

Otherwise, 2016 brought a drumbeat of bad news for Apple in China. The company’s online book and film services have been blocked there; billionaire investor Carl Icahn announced that he had sold all his shares in the company due to dimming China prospects; and Apple’s flagship product, the iPhone, fell to fifth place in the Chinese market, beat out by four local brands. Cook is in a tough spot: Many Chinese see the computing giant as a symbol of the United States, making it both an object of admiration and a lightning rod for anti-American sentiment. Perhaps mindful of this, in October Apple announced plans to erect a new R&D center in Shenzhen, its second in China.

(Photo credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

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