- Apple CEO Tim Cook has been appointed chairman of the advisory board for Tsinghua University's economics school in Beijing, the school announced.
- According to the university, Cook was elected to a three-year post, starting immediately. Cook was present at the university board meeting where his appointment was confirmed.
- Cook isn't the first Silicon Valley CEO to join the economics school's board. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Satya Nadella are all listed as board members too.
- Cook has come under fire recently over Apple's decision to remove an app that let Hong Kong protesters track police movements in the territory.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken up an advisory role at a top Chinese university, at a time his company is under intense scrutiny for apparently kowtowing to Chinese censors.
Beijing's Tsinghua University announced that Cook had become chairman for the advisory board for its economics and management school, and will hold the role for the next three years. We first saw the news via the South China Morning Post.
Tsinghua University's board meeting summary for October 18 notes that Cook himself was present at the meeting where his appointment was confirmed and gave a speech.
Per a translated version of the university's press release:
"The new Chairman of the Advisory Board, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in his speech, he will be jointly committed over the next three years to working with all members to promote the development of the institute for the construction of a world-class school of economics and management."
Cook isn't the only Silicon Valley CEO on the economics school's board. Its list of advisory board members includes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Alibaba founder Jack Ma are also listed as members. According to the South China Morning Post, board membership gives Western executives access to influential Chinese business people and politicians.
Business Insider has contacted Apple and Tsinghua University for comment.
Cook's appointment comes at a delicate time for Apple.
Cook has received criticism for his decision earlier this month to remove from the App Store an app called HKMap.live, which allowed Hong Kong protesters track police movements. The app's developers criticised the decision as political censorship, but Cook said the app allowed protesters to break the law.
In a memo to Apple employees obtained by Bloomberg, Cook justified his decision on the grounds that the app was being used to "maliciously target individual officers for violence" and to "victimize individuals and property where no police are present."
The Apple CEO said he received "credible information" from the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau, as well as Hong Kong residents, that suggested the app was being used for such purposes.
Public figures across the political spectrum have taken a dim view of Cook's stance, however. Last week, a bipartisan group of seven politicians - including Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio - voiced their dismay at the decision in an open letter to Cook.
Apple is also thought to be reconsidering its dependence on China as a manufacturing hub for its most important products, including the iPhone. The Trump administration is in the middle of a fierce trade war with China, imposing tariffs on goods manufactured in the country - impacting a number of key Apple products such as its AirPods, and Apple Watch.
The firm has reportedly started making its budget iPhone XR in India for local customers. It's also reportedly exploring moving some hardware production from China to Vietnam.
At the same time, the firm makes considerable revenue in China. According to its third-quarter financial results, Greater China accounted for about 16% of Apple's total revenue at $9.1 billion.