Apple CEO Tim Cook has been appointed chairman of the advisory board for Tsinghua University's economics and management school in Beijing, according to local Chinese reports.
Cook was a part of the advisory board last year, but this would be the first time he is acting as chairman.
The advisory board consisted of 70 members in 2018-19, with Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Tencent founder Pony Ma, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Softbank chairman Masayoshi Son being among the members.
First reported by South Morning China Post, Cook's new role "could provide access to top Chinese leaders at a time [when] the iPhone manufacturer is facing mounting challenges".
Since becoming China's president in 2012, Xi Jinping has met the advisory board on two occasions, once in 2013 and 2017, the report said. Other state leaders have also met with the group, including former Premier Zhu Rongji and Vice President Wang Qishan, it added.
The Chinese market is an important part of Apple's business, providing around $3 billion in revenue each month for the iPhone manufacturer. The iPhone maker also has a large portion of its manufacturing base and supply chain based in China.
Read more: China has Apple by the iPhones
Cook's decision to become chairman of the school's advisory comes as Apple has drawn fire for its recent activities in China. Earlier this month, Apple ripped HKmap.live from its app store which sparked criticism from various US senators and congresspeople, who issued a letter calling for the app to be reinstated.
"We urge you in the strongest terms to reverse course, to demonstrate that Apple puts values above market access, and to stand with the brave men and women fighting for basic rights and dignity in Hong Kong," the letter said.
The letter also pointed out that Apple has censored over 2,200 apps in China, including removing VPN apps from its Chinese app store two years ago and apps designed to help the Uyghur and Tibetan people.
Cook will be the advisory board's chairman for three years, taking over the position from Jim Breyer, the founder and chief executive of Breyer Capital, Tsinghua University said in a statement on Friday.
In the statement, Cook said he would work with board members to promote the development of the university's economics and management school and to lead the effort in building it into a "world-class school".
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