When Tim Cook visited Capitol Hill to meet privately with senior lawmakers in early December, his company’s relationship with China was high on the agenda.
In the prior month, Beijing’s strict Covid-19 policies had led thousands of workers to flee the Zhengzhou megafactory known as “iPhone City” run by Foxconn, Apple’s manufacturing ally for a quarter of a century. When those trapped at the factory protested, police responded with violence in riot gear.
But when a Fox News reporter put him on the spot in Washington, he declined to answer. “Do you support the Chinese people’s right to protest? Do you have any reaction to the factory workers that were beaten and detained for protesting Covid lockdowns?” asked Hillary Vaughn, as Cook walked through the building. “Do you think it’s problematic to do business with the Communist Chinese party when they suppress human rights?”
Cook ignored Vaughn, eyes cast downward as he changed direction to avoid her. The clip was played repeatedly on US cable news, and the Wall Street Journal highlighted it in an op-ed entitled, “Tim Cook’s Bad Day on China.” One supply chain executive, who declined to speak on record, characterised the confrontation as “the worst 45 seconds of Cook’s career”.