Apple CEO Cook optimistic that some apps pulled in China will return; welcomes WeChat ecosystem on iPhone

“Apple Inc is optimistic that some of its popular apps removed from its China App Store this year to comply with government requests will be reinstated, the U.S. tech giant’s Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Wednesday,” Sijia Jiang and Anne Marie Roantree report for Reuters. “Cook, speaking at the Fortune Forum in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, also stressed that he believes strongly in freedoms, in comments after a U.S. democratic senator’s remarks on Tuesday that Apple had a moral obligation to promote free expression.”

“Apple is facing criticism from local users and rights groups for bowing to pressure from Beijing cyber regulators after it decided to remove dozens of apps from its Chinese store this year, including messaging apps and virtual private network (VPN) services, which help users subvert China’s Great Firewall,” Jiang and Roantree report. “‘My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that’s been pulled, come back. I have great hope on that and great optimism on that,’ Cook said, adding that he always tries to find areas to work together and if he gets criticized for that, so be it.”

“Tencent Holdings, China’s biggest social network and gaming company, was a great partner, Cook said, adding that he thinks very highly of its founder, Pony Ma,” Jiang and Roantree report. “Apple and Tencent had a spat earlier this year after Tencent launched mini programs on its WeChat app, which created an ecosystem of apps within the app and threatened to become an operating system of its own.”

“The two companies are seen to have made peace recently, with the Apple China App Store starting to accept WeChat payments from late August,” Jiang and Roantree report. “Cook said Apple welcomes the WeChat ecosystem as it in fact lowers the cost for Android users to switch to the iPhone’s iOS system, which he said has around 15 percent of the smartphone market in China. ‘Tencent’s ubiquity in China plays to our advantage. Because WeChat works great on the iPhone, and because you can leave the Android ecosystem and go to iOS without losing all of the things you’ve built,’ he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Senator Patrick Leahy (D – Vermont) on Tuesday said in a statement to CNBC: “American tech companies have become leading champions of free expression. But that commitment should not end at our borders. … Global leaders in innovation, like Apple, have both an opportunity and a moral obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights in countries that routinely deny these rights… Apple is clearly a force for good in China, but I also believe it and other tech companies must continue to push back on Chinese suppression of free expression.”

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  1. It doesn’t make much sense for Chinese consumers to run WeChat on expensive iPhones if any cheap Android smartphone will work just as well. In this case, it’s only the software that matters and there’s no way for Apple to get around that fact.

    I’m somewhat surprised that WeChat isn’t used in more parts of the world than just China. The Chinese smartphone manufacturers only have to build smartphones optimized for WeChat which would leave Apple out in the cold. Just bad luck on Apple’s part that Tencent understands the Chinese smartphone market better than Apple does. Is there really any good reason WeChat using cheap Android smartphones would switch to running WeChat on expensive iPhones? I certainly wouldn’t think so. The best Apple could do is build a WeChat clone optimized to run superfast on an iPhone. I’m really not sure what Tim Cook is happy about in this situation with WeChat.

  2. I guess Tim’s commitment to social activism is only pocketbook deep. He doesn’t have the strength of character to put his job on the line for his convictions. Chinese say jump and he responds, how high?

    1. It isn’t just his job. It is the whole company that Cook has a fiduciary duty to preserve. If the President of China ever decided that having Apple around was a political liability, he could sign an Order in a few seconds to ban Apple from doing business in China.

      Even given Apple’s cash reserves, the company would be dead before it could relocate its assembly and component manufacturing elsewhere.

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