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No 'decoupling' here: Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm sing China's praises

First big government expo since COVID sees CEOs galore jet in

Some of Big Tech's top execs have sung China's praises at the 2023 China Development Forum – an annual government-organized event that returned from its COVID hiatus over the weekend.

Attendees included senior government officials and over 50 chief and senior executives from around the world. According to the Wall Street Journal, this included not only Apple's Tim Cook, but Qualcomm's Cristiano Amon, as well as execs from Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Abbott Laboratories, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Shell, Rio Tinto, and Singaporean sovereign-wealth fund Temasek Holdings.

Even a recent $31 million fine and three-month suspension of operations from Beijing didn't scare professional services network Deloitte away.

Orgs like the International Monetary Fund also reportedly sent high level execs. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva reportedly declared that every percent increase in China's GDP would drive economic growth of other Asian countries by 0.3 percent.

Apple's Cook also spoke positively of China's progress, according to Chinese state-sponsored media. "Innovation is developing very fast in China, and I think it will accelerate again," said Cook, reportedly.

The CEO also announced Apple was increasing its donations to the China Development Research Foundation to $14.5 million – of which half will fund digital technology education in underdeveloped areas of the Middle Kingdom.

"We are honored to deepen our understanding of Chinese education, support for careers and create opportunities for young learners in rural areas," Cook reportedly said.

Local news media also reported Qualcomm's Amon as giving a speech at the forum, advocating 5G adoption and supporting China's recent plans to accelerate digital development.

Amon had a full weekend – he also met with China's ministry of commerce, Wang Wentao. According to the ministry, the duo "exchanged views on Sino-US economic and trade relations, Qualcomm's development in China and the promotion of digital transformation."

According to South Korean media, Samsung Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong made his first trip to China since the COVID outbreak. Samsung operates manufacturing facilities in several locations in China. While in the Middle Kingdom, Lee reportedly met with Chen Min'er, the party secretary of Tanjin where the chaebol operates a multilayer ceramic capacitor (MLCC) production line.

The China Development Forum gave many business leaders a chance to reconnect with Chinese operations and officials after three long years of the country's pursuit of a dynamic zero COVID policy. The event also offered the chance to meet newly-appointed leaders.

It also gives Beijing an opportunity to exert pressure on business leaders to lobby the US government on their behalf. The environment of this year's event not only includes a return from COVID and resulting supply chain disasters, but also a backdrop of continued US sanctions and heightened geo-political tensions.

The event also comes at a time when sanctions against Chinese companies are increasing, and companies that do business in the Middle Kingdom are reassessing their Chinese operations. Many tech companies are diversifying into Vietnam and India – a trend China would no doubt like to reverse. ®

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