Tim Cook (third left), CEO of Apple Inc, and Liu Qing (first left), president of Didi Chuxing visit an Apple store in Beijing on Monday morning. (Provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
Apple CEO Tim Cook hailed Chinese app developers and their contribution to the country's economy on Monday, as he began a visit to China following his company's investment of 1 billion U.S. dollars in Chinese ride hailing app Didi Chuxing.
"The momentum is absolutely incredible," Cook said in a meeting with developers, government officials and journalists. He said developers in China have earned over 7 billion U.S. dollars, more than half of it in the past 12 months.
Their apps are popular around the world, with many of them having been downloaded in hundreds of countries, according to Cook.
"We are in the early phases of a tremendous growth," he said. "Government policies like Internet Plus act as the foundation of why I think the growth can be so incredible from here. They foster innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the Chinese economy."
Cook is on his eighth China visit since becoming Apple CEO in 2011. He took a Didi taxi with Jean Liu Qing, president of Didi, to meet the developers on Monday morning.
The Apple chief regularly meets entrepreneurs when in China, and he said he continues to be impressed by them. "[China] is one of the most vibrant places in the world," according to Cook. "There are so many entrepreneurs now that they'll drive the next generation of innovation in China."
In a telephone interview with Xinhua on Friday, Cook explained that Apple had chosen to invest in Didi as it has been "an incredibly great success story on the App Store," aside from being a leading ride sharing service both in and outside China.
He said the investment reflected Apple's excitement about Didi's fast-growing business and Apple's "continued confidence" in China's economy in the long term.
Cook did not give a straightforward answer when asked about rumors that the Didi investment has some connection with Apple's own plans for an electric car.
Currently, he said, Apple's focus when it comes to the car market is on CarPlay, it's device for connecting Apple smartphones to in-car entertainment systems. "We'll see where that takes us," he said.
But Cook became far more direct when asked whether the investment was a sign of Apple losing its innovative edge.
"No, no, there is no truth behind that at all, " he said, arguing that it was a sign of Apple placing greater focus on China.
Apple has already put a lot of money into opening retail stores in China. It is expecting the 37th Apple Store to open this Saturday, approaching Cook's goal of having 40 before the end of 2016.