While Mark Zuckerberg's using his China trip for touristy things with girlfriend Priscilla Chan, Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken his China trip to do some Foxconn related PR-cleanup. When Cook first arrived Apple billed the trip as business-related discussions about "greater investment and growth" in China. But, with a trip to the Foxconn factory yesterday and other public appearances, Cook has used this Asian excursion for more than just business meetings.
Since Apple got pinned as the Face of Foxconn Problems, following Mike Daisey's controversial This American Life episode and The New York Times iEconomy series, the company has stuck to an "Apple cares" trope, which continues with Cook's trip. "Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly," wrote Cook in a company wide email that made the Internet rounds following those two stories and the Apple is evil press that followed. "We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are," he continued.
During yesterday's Foxconn factory trip, Cook put actions to those words, visiting a 120,000 worker Beijing plant. (It's worth noting that this is a different plant than the one Mike Daisey claimed to have visited.) Predictably, Apple made sure the world knew about the visit, sending out the above picture of Cook and workers looking cheery. "Picture handouts dated March 28 and e-mailed to Reuters show Cook seen smiling and meeting workers in the newly built Foxconn ZhengzhouTechnology Park in the north central province of Hebei," Reuters reports. We also get this one with an elated-to-see-Cook worker.
As the first Apple CEO to visit China, something the less-empathetic Steve Jobs never did, Cook has already given the company a better reputation in the country. China's bloggers have "praised the executive for paying more attention to the Chinese market," writes China Real Time Report's Loretta Chao. Other than his factory trip, Cook's been spotted at an Apple store and had a meeting yesterday with senior politician Li Keqiang, who also brought up Foxconn, mentioning that multinational corporations (Apple) should pay more attention to caring for factory (Foxconn) workers. Even if it wanted to, Apple can't fix all of Foxconn's worker problems. But at least it can make it look like it's trying.