During his first visit to China since 2020, Tim Cook praised Apple’s “symbiotic relationship” with the PRC, although the company has recently been taking more steps to move its production to other countries, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Tim Cook’s speech at an economic conference in Beijing hosted by the Chinese government on Saturday, the Apple CEO gave an optimistic speech that was met with applause.

“I am thrilled to be back in China,” the chief executive told the China Development Forum, hosted by a research center of the State Council. “It means the world to me and I feel really privileged to be here.”

Mr. Cook spoke about how Apple and China have grown together in the three decades since the company arrived in a country it has relied on as both a manufacturing center and a fast-growing consumer market. “This has been a symbiotic kind of relationship that we have both enjoyed,” he said.

He also answered questions about the importance of education from Lu Mai, a former official of the China Development Research Foundation, the forum’s organizer. Mr. Cook said Apple is committing 100 million yuan, equivalent to around $14.6 million, to help fund educational projects run by the foundation, a unit affiliated to the State Council’s research center.

Apple did not immediately respond to questions about why it was important for Tim Cook to attend the Chinese government-sponsored conference at a time when tensions between the United States and China are rising. In 2017, Mr Cook said it was important not to be a bystander in China if you wanted to achieve change. According to Mr. Lu, this is his fifth time participating in the annual forum.

Tim Cook is one of dozens of American and other foreign leaders participating or planning to participate in the three-day conference that began Saturday. This year’s forum comes as China seeks foreign investment to fuel a slowing economic recovery, while relations with its biggest trading partners in the West have soured.

For American business leaders, the risk of potential negative consequences from being seen in Beijing is high, given how high-ranking American government officials refrain from visiting China. In February, Washington indefinitely postponed a visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken after a Chinese spy balloon was downed over the United States.

In some of the sessions Saturday, the geopolitical tensions loomed as the elephant in the room. On stage, many multinational executives didn’t touch on the implications for businesses of worsening relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

Qualcomm Inc. CEO Cristiano Amon focused his talk on the digital transformation and 5G, and their potential to boost businesses and productivity in society as a whole. When asked later by The Wall Street Journal how he felt about visiting China as political ties sour, Mr. Amon responded with a smile and a “thank you” as he walked away.