Apple CEO Tim Cook visits China. What did they talk about?

Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday to talk about "intellectual property-issues and great cooperation." But Cook has other reasons to fly thousands of miles across the globe.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters
Tim Cook speaks in a demonstration room after introducing the new iPad in San Francisco, Calif. on March 7. Cook met with China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday. This was his first trip to China since he became CEO of Apple.

Apple CEO Tim Cook visited China on Tuesday. Mr. Cook met with China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who’s expected to take over for Premier Wen Jiabao in the near future. According to The Wall Street Journal, the two men – one leading the most valuable company in the world, and the other overseeing the world’s most valuable burgeoning market – discussed “intellectual-property issues and greater cooperation.”

An Apple spokeswoman told Bloomberg that Cook and Keqiang had “a great meeting.”

Considering recent events, the two have a lot to discuss – including allegations that the iPad name was stolen from a Chinese company, as well as reports of poor working conditions in some of Apple’s China-based factories.

Proview Technology is demanding up to $1.6 billion from Apple because the company didn’t purchase rights to the iPad name in China, Wired reports. Apple did obtain the rights from sister company Proview Electronics, which is based in Taiwan, but corporate confusion led to allegations that Apple had not properly secured the naming rights in China, where Proview Technology claims that it still owns the iPad name.

Reports also surfaced in January alleging that factories in central China, where Apple contractors produce the iPad and iPhone, are in horrible condition. Employees “work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms,” reports The New York Times. Some cleaned iPhones with poisonous chemicals; in 2010, more than 70 were injured in two explosions.

Pile on China’s copyright infringements – Chinese companies have been making near-identical copies of Apple products for years – and the two leaders have plenty of problems yet to mend.

But Cook may have other priorities on his mind. A fruitful visit to China could dramatically increase Apple’s stock. Signing a deal with China Mobile, for instance, would greatly heighten the number of iPhone users and Apple’s already-staggering market value. As of now, China Telecom and Unicom carry iPhones, but China Mobile would open up 600 million potential new customers – if Cook strikes a deal with CEO Wang Jianzhou, that is.

So far, both sides have been hush-hush on the details of the meeting, which has only fueled more rumors about what Cook and Keqiang discussed. For now, it’s just another heavily guarded secret worthy of the world’s most valuable company and a rising global power.

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