Apple's Tim Cook visits Foxconn in China, speculation ensues

Tim Cook with a fan at Apple Store in China
Tim Cook with a fan at Apple Store in China

(CBS News) Is Apple's chief executive officer Tim Cook in Zhengzhou, China to ensure next iPhone will be ethical?

Apple cares about every worker in its supply chain, says Tim Cook
Full coverage of Apple at Tech Talk

Cook was spotted at the new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, where 120,000 people work, Bloomberg reports. When then next iPhone begins production, it will could be this factory that manufacturers the popular smartphone.

Apple's chief executive also met with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, paid a visit to the Foxconn plant in Tianjin and stopped by an Apple Store in Beijing.

The Xinhua news agency reports that Cook told Li that Apple "will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with the Chinese side and conduct business in a law-abiding and honest manner," according to Bloomberg.

The motive behind Cook's visit has not been made clear by Apple. A spokeswoman for the company only said the CEO was there to meet with "government officials." One thing's for sure, speculation over the high-profile visit is running rampant.

There are several reasons Cook could be in China. Topping the list is to iron out problems with the controversial iPad and iPhone manufacturer Foxconn. Apple became the target of complaints over the working conditions of Foxconn plants, which manufactures about 50 percent of the world's electronics.

ZDNET: Apple chief Tim Cook in China: Three things he could be doing

Foxconn has been continuously in the headlines. In January, 300 employees working on Microsoft's Xbox 360 threatened mass suicide. In the same month, the public radio program "This American Life" broadcast a show featuring American monologist Mike Daisey's harrowing account of poor working conditions. The show was later retracted because of fabrications in Daisey's report.

iPad manufacturer Foxconn under fire again, Apple responds
"This American Life" retracts Apple Foxconn episode
Mike Daisey apologizes for fabrications in Apple monologue

Nonetheless, the issues at Foxconn came to light and after an explosive expose by the New York Times - with Apple at the center of the storm.

One of themany petitions to surface asked Apple to make the next iPhone ethical. Cook responded to allegations of unethical working conditions by saying that Apple cares about every worker in their worldwide supply chain.

"Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern," Cook said in an email to Apple employees in January. "Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us."