Two of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley met with arguably the most powerful man on the planet this weekend in Beijing.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were in the Chinese capital to meet President Xi Jinping on Monday. The chief executives convened at an annual meeting of advisers to Beijing’s Tsinghua University business school, where both serve on the board of advisors.
The meeting with Xi comes at an important time for Cook and Zuckerberg, as their respective companies eye growth in China and seek to curry good standing with Beijing and its iron-fisted approach to internet speech and surveillance.
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Other tech luminaries from around the globe were in attendance for the board meeting, such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, Tencent CEO Pony Ma and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son.
Great to be a member of Tsinghua SEM with Tim Cook, Robin Li, Jack Ma, Pony Ma, Elon Musk, Satya Nadella, Masa Son, Mark Zuckerberg… pic.twitter.com/Rhl6kcV3RP
— Risto Siilasmaa (@rsiilasmaa) October 30, 2017
Facebook’s Zuckerberg & Apple’s Tim Cook among others met with Xi Jinping in Beijing.Xi seeks advice on China’s economic/educational reform. pic.twitter.com/ywZIdIlGGg
— Wang Guan (@WangGuanCGTN) October 30, 2017
Apple has been doubling down on trying to revive its slumping iPhone sales over the past two years. In June, Apple deployed vice president of wireless technologies Isabel Ge Mahe as its head of Chinese operations to lead the charge.
Apple’s push in China has been a bumpy ride. Earlier this month, Chinese regulators cut cellular service to the new Apple Watch because the device did not meet the SIM specifications that allow the government to monitor its citizens. Apple’s decision in July to pull more than 40 virtual private network apps in China’s App Store — hindering its citizens from circumventing China’s “Great Firewall” internet surveillance — led to open questions from the United States Senate.
Apple’s gamble may be paying off. A new report from the market data company Canalys says Apple had a 40 percent increase in iPhone sales this quarter in China, ending an 18-month-long slump.
But “Apple’s growth this quarter is only temporary,” wrote Canalys research analyst Mo Jia. “The high sell-in caters to the pent-up demand of iPhone upgraders in the absence of the iPhone X. Price cuts on earlier models after announcing the iPhone 8 have also helped. However, Apple is unlikely to sustain this growth in Q4.”
Zuckerberg faces an even steeper challenge, as Facebook has been banned in China since 2009. Zuckerberg has visited China numerous times in the past few years, notably taking a photo-op run around Tiananmen Square on a dangerously smoggy day in Beijing, and learning to speak Mandarin.
Facebook’s desperation was perhaps manifested best when the social media giant launched a photo-sharing app called Colorful Balloons in China in May. The new app had the design and function of Facebook Moments app but did not include any Facebook icons, according to the New York Times.
Zuckerberg confirmed on his Facebook account he was in Beijing for the meeting. Apple told Reuters that it could not “comment on Tim’s schedule and or meetings.”
“I’m in Beijing for the annual Tsinghua School of Economics and Management advisory board meeting,” wrote Zuckerberg. “Every year this trip is a great way to keep up with the pace of innovation and entrepreneurship in China.”
The board meeting follows a week after the 19th Communist Party Congress in China, the most important political gathering in China that occurs every five years.
This year’s Congress was notable for Xi’s consolidation of his power, etching his ideas into China’s constitution, a privilege formerly reserved only for Chairman Mao Zedong.
Photo: This handout picture taken and provided by Facebook on March 18, 2016, shows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (gray shirt) running past Tiananmen Gate. (Facebook via AFP Getty)