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Tim Cook’s outdated China playbook may bite Apple

Thursday March 28, 2024. 12:33 AM , from Mac Daily News
Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent all-smiles charm offensive in China is the latest in a long parade of Western business leaders in recent decades seeking to shore up access to the Chinese market and consumer. It’s an outdated playbook, writes China policy expert Dewardric McNeal.
Dewardric L. McNeal for CNBC:

There’s been a recent uptick in U.S. CEOs making treks to China in search of favor and foothold. This ritual, epitomized by high-profile engagements — such as Apple CEO Tim Cook’s effusive overtures and statements of commitments to China — signals that American corporate titans think the strategy can still work. It won’t. It’s a strategic play drawn from an antiquated playbook.
Tim Cook’s recent sojourn in China, including pledges of increased investment and the expansion of research and development facilities, exemplify this tried and tested strategy. Tim Cook’s narrative of China as “critical” to Apple, coupled with his admiration for the country’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, embodies the ethos of this engagement playbook.
But the approach has run its course. It is no longer fit for purpose in an era of intense bilateral economic competition, geopolitical tensions, technological rivalries, and a profound reshaping of the global economic landscape. CEOs who continue to bet on this strategy should expect diminishing marginal returns, particularly under Xi Jinping’s leadership.
Despite Cook’s efforts, Apple faces declining sales in China, a testament to the growing domestic competition, security concerns about foreign hardware and software, and an increasingly nationalistic and patriotic Chinese consumers.

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