Tech

Apple CEO Appointed Chair of Board at Top Chinese University With Close Ties to Beijing

Apples CEO Tim Cook recently became the chairman of an advisory board at the business school under Chinas prestigious Tsinghua University, as the tech giant faced criticism for caving in to the Chinese regimes censorship rules owing to its business interests in China.

Cooks role at the board was to make Tsinghuas School of Economics and Management a world-class institution during his three-year stint, according to the school websites report on an advisory board meeting held on Oct. 18. Cook hosted the meeting with 35 members in attendance.

The advisory board, established in 2000, comprises of roughly 70 business leaders and scholars from the United States, Europe, and Asia, as well as Chinese Communist Party officials. Chinese Vice Chair Wang Qishan is also an honorary member.

Reports from the website show that Cook joined the advisory board in October 2013. Chinas Vice Premier Liu He, Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent CEO Pony Ma, and Baidu Chairman Robin Li, who recently stepped down from his role at the cloud computing unit of internet giant Baidu, also served as board members in the past year.

Tsinghua receives substantial funding from the Chinese regime, including to conduct research benefiting the Chinese military.

China-US-Apple
Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the Economic Summit held for the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, on March 23, 2019. (Ng Han Guan/AFP/Getty Images)

According to the state-owned newspaper China Education Daily, the university received more than 100 million yuan ($14.53 million) from the Science and Technology Committee of Chinas Central Military Commission—a Party organ that oversees the military—to advance AI capabilities for the military.

The work of the universitys “Military Intelligent High-End Lab,” an AI lab established in 2018, will be “guided by military needs” to make China an advanced AI country, according to the newspaper report.

Apple hasnt responded to a media inquiry as of press time.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) took to Twitter on Oct. 21, criticizing Cook for his decision to chair the board.

“Will you teach a course on human liberties [and] Tiananmen Square? Maybe update students about whats happening in Hong Kong Protests?” he asked.

Bowing to China

Apple has recently come under criticism at home for toeing Beijings line in order to maintain its business in China.

On the same day the Tsinghua meeting took place, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote to Cook expressing concern over the companys recent decision to pull a crowd-sourced app, HKmap.live, from its app store.

The app has gained popularity among Hong Kong locals for providing timely updates about the ongoing protests, which could help protesters avoid tear gas and clashes on the street. Apple dropped the app just one day after Chinese state media accused the company of protecting “rioters” and told Apple that its business prosperity in China was at stake.

Apple employees line the stairs as they
Apple employees line the stairs as they
Apple employees line the stairs as they welcome customers during the opening of the first Apple retail store in Hong Kong on Sept. 24, 2011. (Dale de la Rey/AFP/Getty Images)

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