So What's Tim Cook Doing in China This Time Around?

Rebecca Greenfield
The Atlantic Wire
So What's Tim Cook Doing in China This Time Around?

For the second time in a year Apple CEO Tim Cook has travelled to China, and for the second time the purposes of his visit are shrouded in mystery, speculation, and, of course, tech-world chatter about world domination. Cook has so far met with Industry and Information Technology Minister Miao Wei, according to the official ministry site, which released the photo above. The two talked about "the development of the information and communication industry in China, the global mobile communication and intelligent terminal industry development and innovation trends and Apple exchanged views on development in China," reads the ministry's vague update. And other than that, Apple has refused to release further details of Cook's trip, a spokesperson told Bloomberg News. Of course, that hasn't stopped the speculation. Some theories:

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Expanding Plans to Dominate in China

The Mission: Get more stores into Chinese cities; visit a retail location. 

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Likelihood: High. When Cook visited last March, he talked about "even greater investment and growth" in the country. Apple has accomplished that in the last 10 months, doubling the number of Chinese locations from six to twelve. The company has only fulfilled a tiny part of its huge potential, according to analysts who suggest Apple could potentially open 400-500 stores there. 

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Extending the Foxconn Olive Branch

The Mission: Visit the factory to prove the company's dedication to improved working conditions.

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Likelihood: Medium-Low. Cook took some smiling photos on his visit to the much maligned factory on his last visit when the timing was much more important, as it followed months of scrutiny. At this point, Apple seems to have proven that it cares, at least from a PR standpoint, and Foxconn has made some changes, including higher wages and adding more amenities, like chairs. 

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Conquering Mobile

The Mission: Get the biggest Chinese cellphone carrier to start selling the iPhone, or at least try.

Likelihood: Possible. Apple has long tried to work with China Mobile Beijing, hoping to gain access to its 120 million subscribers. The two companies haven't reached a deal, even after two years of negotiations, as the wireless provider continues to have both technical and financial issues with a partnership. Cook was seen spotted at the China Mobile Beijing offices during his last trip, and it would make sense to continue talks.