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Apple’s Jeff Williams Makes Rare Taiwan Visit for Foxconn Gala

Apple’s Jeff Williams Makes Rare Taiwan Visit for Foxconn Gala

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc.’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams is on a rare visit to Taiwan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Foxconn, the company that helped build the iPhone empire by assembling those devices to exacting standards in factories across China.

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In Taipei on Tuesday night, Williams was joined by Apple’s senior vice president of operations, Sabih Khan, as a guest of honor at a gala celebration, according to people familiar with the matter. Also present were SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son and Arm Holdings Plc boss Rene Haas, the people said, asking not to be named as the event was private.

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It was an uncommon trip for Williams, whose last public appearance in Taiwan was in 2017 for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s 30th anniversary celebration. The occasion was also a rare moment for Taiwan to host so many leaders from the global tech industry at a single event. Foreign executives often opt for low-key visits to Taiwan so as to avoid a reaction from China, which claims the island as part of its territory.

Williams is among Apple’s most senior executives under CEO Tim Cook, who hasn’t visited Taiwan in an official capacity in more than a decade of leading the company. Cook makes regular trips to China, which hosts Apple’s key production base and is one of the firm’s largest markets. But he’s mostly avoided Taiwan, and he last made a public appearance on the island in 2008 for Foxconn founder Terry Gou’s wedding.

Representatives for Apple, SoftBank and Arm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Foxconn is a mainstay in Apple’s production and assembly chain, helping to navigate challenges like the logistics and supply snarls caused by the pandemic. Apple has leaned on Foxconn and other Taiwanese partners more recently to shift some iPhone assembly to India, as it grapples with how to diversify its supply chain in the face of escalating US tech restrictions on China.

SoftBank’s Son and Foxconn’s Gou have been longtime business partners. Foxconn helped assemble SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper, though that project eventually faltered.

Taiwan’s Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan and Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua joined Foxconn’s celebrations, with Chairman Young Liu hosting the event.

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