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Apple CEO aims to smooth relations in China

HONG KONG/BEIJING -- Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook has jetted into China for talks with government officials as he seeks to clear up a pile of problems in the firm's biggest growth market, from its contested iPad trademark to treatment of local labor.

Cook is on his first trip to the country since taking over from late co-founder Steve Jobs in August, keeping to a closely guarded agenda that has included talks on Monday with Beijing's mayor and a visit to Apple's flagship store in the capital.

“Tim is in China meeting with government officials. China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth there,” said Carolyn Wu, China spokeswoman for the maker of iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Wu declined to give details of Cook's full agenda, other than to say he would meet other government officials on Tuesday.

Cook was photographed smiling by eager fans at the Apple store, who posted some of the images on social networking sites, but the new chief executive has a thicket of tricky problems to cut through in China, which is both Apple's most important manufacturing hub and biggest potential market.

China is the world's largest mobile market and already Apple's second biggest market overall, but the firm has been losing ground there to arch rival Samsung Electronics in smartphones and has yet to introduce the latest version of its top-selling iPad to the country.

In the last quarter of 2011, Apple captured three quarters of China's tablet PC market, while its iPhone ranked fifth in the country's smartphone sector, industry figures showed.

Just Scratched the Surface

Apple has deals in place with China Telecom and Unicom to sell its iPhone in the country, with the only other Chinese carrier, China Mobile, looking to clinch a deal with the California company.

An alliance with China Mobile, the country's biggest mobile carrier, is viewed by many industry analysts as crucial to the acceleration of iPhone sales through China, though compatibility problems with the carrier's network have yet to be resolved.

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