Well, look who's turned up in China.
Apple CEO Tim Cook surprised shoppers on Monday when he made an appearance at the Apple Store in Beijing's Joy City shopping mall, reports China-based internet and tech blog TechNode.
The blog spotted a post by @STwing on Sina Weibo (China's version of Twitter), explaining that the tech titan dropped in at the store around 11 a.m. The user even included a photos of Cook smiling with Apple store employees and posing with customers. (Visit TechNode to view the photos.)
The Wall Street Journal heard word from Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu confirming Cook's presence in China. Wu also said Cook had met with Chinese government officials, in addition to visiting the Beijing Apple store.
The trip is not Cook’s first visit to China — he was infamously sent to the country by Steve Jobs during issues with Foxconn — but his appearance does mark the first time that a serving Apple CEO has set foot in China, as Jobs never visited.
His trip comes just days after the company published data collected by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) updating the public on reportedly exploitative working conditions in factories owned by Chinese companies where popular devices like iPads are assembled. Apple's report, published last week, noted that the FLA probe turned up no instances of underage workers employed at supplier factories; Apple also said that instances of excessive working hours were relatively low, with most employees in supplier factories averaging about 48 hours per week, though 11 percent of employees were found working in excess of 60 hours per week in February.
Cook's visit to China also comes during strikes at a Taiyuan plant owned by manufacturing giant Foxconn, one of Apple's suppliers that received perhaps the most scrutiny over working conditions. According to CNET, Foxconn is planning to recruit 20,000 workers to help pick up the slack left by those currently on strike in Taiyuan and to prepare for production of Apple's upcoming iPhone 5.
ZDNet speculates that Cook may be visiting the country to meet with certain mobile carriers that could help strengthen the iPhone's market share there. Indeed, China's mobile market is crucial for Apple, especially since the country recently surpassed the U.S. in activations of Apple and Android devices.
"Apple has done a great job with the relatively small number of retail stores they have got here," David Wolf, CEO of Beijing-based marketing strategy consulting firm Wolf Group Asia, told Bloomberg. "The challenge now is to extend the successful retail model they have in the U.S. to China. Now they are really still in a test phase. It's time to take it broader."
Check out the slideshow (below) to see photos of Tim Cook through the years.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple product launch event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 7, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. In the first product release following the death of Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. introduced the third version of the iPad and an updated Apple TV. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the event introducing the new iPhone 4s at the company's headquarters Oct. 4, 2011 in Cupertino, Calif.. The announcement marks the first time Cook introduces a new product since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs resigned in August. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Verizon President and COO Lowell McAdam (L) shakes hands with Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook during the iPhone announcement Jan. 11, 2011 in New York City. In a long-anticipated move, Verizon and Apple have announced that Apple's popular iPhone mobile phone will be offered on a Verizon's phone network. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Apple COO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the company's headquarters on Oct. 20, 2010 in Cupertino, Calif. Apple announced a new version of its iLife suite and is expected to announce a new operating system for its Mac computers. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
From left to right, Tim Cook, Chief Operating Officer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller, EVP Product Marketing, answer questions after Jobs introduced new versions of the iMac and iLife applications on Aug, 7, 2007 in Cupertino, Calif. The all-in-one desktop computers now have a slimmer design in aluminum casings with faster chips and glossy screens and is up to $300 cheaper then their predecessors. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
This undated photo provided by Apple Computer shows Tim Cook, head of the company's worldwide sales and operations. CEO Steve Jobs announced on Aug. 1, 2004 that Cook will fill in to run the day-to-day operations at Apple while he is recuperating from surgery for a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Jobs is expected to return to work in September. (Photo by Apple via Getty Images)
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