Apple upbeat about return of apps in China

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Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a speech at the Fortune Forum, a conference hosted in the southern city of Guangzhou in China.

Cook delivered a keynote at the conference, where he revealed that app developers have earned $16.9 billion from using China's App Store, which is about a quarter of global earnings, according to Reuters.

Cook's high-profile appearance Sunday at the government-organized World Internet Conference drew comments from activists and US politicians who say Apple should do more to push back against Chinese internet restrictions.

Cook's speech touched on Chinese sales of the new iPhone X and controversy surrounding the removal of messaging apps from China's App Store.

However, the company hopes it can regain back some momentum after the release of its iPhone 8 and iPhone X models which shipped in November, according to Reuters.

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"The theme of this conference - developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits - is a vision we at Apple share", Cook said, as reported by Bloomberg.

The U.S. tech giant said earlier it had moved its Chinese cloud data onto the servers of a local partner in the Chinese province of Guizhou.

Yet, "Apple is facing criticism from local users and rights groups for bowing to pressure from Beijing cyber regulators after it chose to remove hundreds of apps from its Chinese store this year", Reuters notes. Although the conference occurs annually in China, it's the first time such prominent tech executives from Silicon Valley have attended and given public comments.

Recently, Apple had a disagreement with Tencent Holdings, China's largest social network and gaming company, after Tencent chose to release apps within its own app ecosystem, completely circumventing the Apple store.