Environment and market both concerns of Apple in China: Tim Cook

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Apple CEO Tim Cook began his China visit Monday with a new environmental initiative -- to protect as much as one million acres of managed working forests in the country through World Wildlife Fund partnership.

The project is Apple's largest project of its kind in the world and may help save both managed and non-managed forests, said Cook in an exclusive interview with Xinhua upon arrival.

The multi-year project help make pulp, paper and wood products more sustainable and the high-tech giant's expanding renewable energy and environmental protection initiatives in China. Apple began developing it last year.

"The environmental issue is very important in China," said Cook.

He said Apple has been looking closely at Chinese President Xi Jinping's objectives, and aligning what Apple is doing to meet China's objectives.

"This area is one where we can make a significant contribution," said Cook, adding that Apple is in a unique position to lead in the subject because of its expertise, passion, and employees' skills in the area.

Apple has vowed to achieve a net-zero impact on the world's supply of sustainable virgin fiber and power all of its operations worldwide entirely on renewable energy. Currently 87 percent of its global operations run on renewable energy.

Apple is now successfully running all its data centers, usually an enormous user of energy, on 100 percent renewable energy.

The forestry program aims to manage wood resources, to make them renewable and ensure that forests don't get lost to development.

The concept is not widely spread worldwide though, and it is rare for a private company like Apple to get involved.

Cook said very few companies focus on the product they make after it is shipped to the customers in terms of environmental concerns. But this is an area where Apple pays a lot of attention because it helps customers cut carbon footprints.

"We don't advocate, that is not our responsibility," said Cook, "by the same token, we focus on the manufacturing of the product, not just the final assembling, but all the way back to the raw materials."

"That's the only way Apple can make an enormous impact on the environment," he said. The CEO said there has been enough talk about environment issues, and it's time to take action.

Cook's current visit is largely centered around environment. Aside from that, he will also be focusing on Apple Pay's entry in China.

"We very much want to get Apple Pay in China," he said. Apple has been negotiating with the banks and Jack Ma Yun from Alibaba, a China-based B2B platform provider, which would give a boost to a powerful third party payment provider. Alibaba was listed on NASDAQ last year.

Cook described the launch of Apple Pay in the United States as "a huge start" and believes that it could be even faster in China.

"I'm very bullish on Apple Pay in China," he said.

Apple Watch is another of his concerns. Cook said Apple Watch is a "perfect" product in one of the most popular categories right now. Apple is trying to make as many as it can. He did not, however, disclose the sales figures for the Apple Watch, which started on April 24.

Cook arrived in Beijing to the news that Apple has overtaken Xiaomi, a home rival, to become the No.1 smart phone vendor in China. He said he was excited about the "great news".

Apple announced on April 28 that it has sold 61 million iPhones in the first three months of this year. Cook said the company sold more iPhones in China than in the United States in last quarter.

He said the market potential of China is very large.

"I think China is a market where everyone will own a smart phone," he said, hoping to convince "a reasonable percentage" of the market.

Apple has accelerated market exploration in China, which Cook believes will become Apple's biggest market in the world. It has opened seven more retail stores in China since the start of 2015, aiming to bring the number of Apple Stores to 40 by 2016.

"Forty is a good objective for us for mid next year," said Cook, "That is not where we want to end. We'll keep adding from there."

Currently Apple has 22 retail stores in China since the first one opened its doors in Beijing in 2008. Endi

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