BEIJING, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Apple expects its business and social initiatives to go further and deeper in China which has "enormous strength", according to CEO Tim Cook.
Cook arrived last week to attend the 2017 China Development Forum (CDF). His trips to China frequently include visiting local iOS developers.
"The momentum is tremendous," he said in an interview on Tuesday. Apple has paid developers in China a total of 90 billion yuan (13 billion U.S. dollars) since its app store went online in 2008, 40 billion yuan of which was in the last 12 months.
There are nearly 1.8 million iOS developers in China, home to about 700 million mobile Internet users. China surpassed America in iOS App Store downloads in 2015 and claimed the top spot for iOS App Store revenue.
In terms of app development, China is growing faster than any other country, Cook said.
"There is no better place for entrepreneurs and innovators to get their business started and sell, not only to the huge domestic market, but also to export their talent to the world, " he said.
During his visit, Apple announced plans to open R&D centers in Shanghai and Suzhou, in addition to two already in Beijing and Shenzhen, with more than 3.5 billion yuan committed.
Apple entered the Chinese market more than three decades ago, has 46 retail stores and the vast majority of its global supply chain in China.Apple's presence means 4.8 million jobs to the country.
In May 2016, Apple made a "rare" investment of 1 billion U.S. dollars in Chinese ride hailing app Didi Chuxing and has been promoting environmental initiatives in China. The latest move is 130,000 ha of sustainable forest in south China as a source of packaging paper.
Describing his company's position in China as "having very deep roots", Cook said the relationship is getting broader and deeper.
"If you could draft this out, make our relationship on a graph, you would see it getting higher and higher," he said.
As for the increasing challenges from home-grown rivals Huawei, OPPO and Vivo, the CEO admits that there are more competitors in China than elsewhere. Mostly, however, they compete among themselves for Android business.
Apple, he said, respects competition which makes all players better and will continue to make the best, not the most, products and enrich people's lives.