This week business and technical media reported the visit of Apple CEO Tim Cook to meet with Chinese government officials. The agenda related to an ongoing dispute involving the iPad trademark which has hindered sales of that device within the country, as well as other potential topics including the opening of additional Apple retail stores in China. Apple had previously relied on Chinese resellers to distribute its products within the country.

While many procurement and supply chain professionals have had China on their travel itineraries,  it seems that the name recognition and clout of Apple can overcome many obstacles, both business and supply chain related.

Apple is involved in a rather complicated legal dispute with Proview International Holdings over the trademark rights to iPad.  Mr. Cook’s visit is reported as a “big deal” on the Chinese focused Internet with consumers sharing photos of themselves posing with “Captain Cook” at the Apple store in Beijing.

Mr. Cook was not expected to meet with Proview officials during his visit.

Coincidental or not to this visit comes a posting by Hana Stewart-Smith on the ZDNet blog that the company’s Wi-Fi enabled iPad model has passed certification for sale in China, despite the ongoing dispute with Proview. According to ZD Net, the Wi-Fi version device was granted its compulsory certification, a requirement for sales in the country, but the 4G capable model still requires certification approval.

One can also speculate that the other potential hidden agenda is the presence of over one million workers assembling electronic devices at contract manufacturer Foxconn, along with other China based suppliers participating in Apple’s value-chain.  Much visibility has been brought to the forefront regarding Apple’s commitment to supplier responsibility commitments and worker safety audits. Shortly after last year’s well publicized incidents of worker suicides occurring at Foxconn, Cook secretly traveled to China to personally meet with Foxconn officials.

Not many CEO’s in the world get the opportunity to meet with Chinese government officials, unless of course, you represent the most valuable company, with the coolest products and retail stores, representing a significant production and supply chain presence, and upwards of $100 billion in cash to invest.

All of which is somewhat compelling to state the least.

Bob Ferrari