Apple CEO Tim Cook has joined the advisory board of Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management (SEM), according to its website. Located in Beijing, Tsinghua is one of China’s most prestigious universities. The advisory board meets annually “to offer advice on the development of Tsinghua SEM,” according to its site. Other notable American members include Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and former Wal-mart CEO H. Lee Scott.
It’s unclear how joining the SEM’s board could potentially help Apple’s business in China, but it’s another way for Cook to cultivate closer ties to the country that he has said will soon become the company’s most important market. The board includes several key politicians, including Wang Qishan, the Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist party’s anti-corruption body; Chen Yuan, the Vice Chairperson of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC); Ma Kai, one of China’s fourth vice premiers; and Zhou Xiaochuan, the Vice Chairman of the 12th National Committee of the CPPCC.
Since taking charge of Apple, Cook has made China a top priority. In January, for example, Cook visited the country, in part to negotiate for a license from the government that will allow the iPhone to run on China’s largest carrier, called China Mobile. Maintaining relationships in China is also important when a potential PR crisis emerged, as it did last April when the state-run media accused Apple of treating Chinese consumers unfairly. In that case, Cook issued an apology, which was praised by government officials.
Cook will join several other tech executives on SEM’s board, including Terry Gou, the founder and CEO of key Apple manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group; Nobuyuki Idei, former chairman of Sony Corporation; Irwin Mark Jacobs, founding chairman of Qualcomm; Robin Li, the co-founder of Baidu; and Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group.