For the amount of growth that can be sought in China, American tech companies can’t seem to harness any meaningful influence in the region — probably because the government dictates how foreign business must be conducted with existing domestic firms.

Apple has not been an exception, though its success has outsized nearly every other US company. The idea that it has at least some fragment of pull with Chinese President Xi Jinping or US President Donald Trump is tempting — the two leaders are in somewhat precarious positions when it comes to trade at the moment.

The Washington Post reports that CEO Tim Cook has been in China this week, swinging between the tech enclaves in Shanghai and Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he serves on its board.

All the while, he has been trying to sell the iPhone XS — posting pictures on his Weibo account taken from the iPhone XS Max. With import taxes the way they are in addition to the general displacement between how Apple and its competition prices their products, it’s not a great look when the iPhone XS starts at a minimum of $1,250 when Huawei can barely edge up above $800 and Xiaomi tops out at $600. Local press reports say sales of the XS series have not been great.

Still, imaging counts for something and Cook will have to make it count while he’s there, according to IDC analyst Bryan Ma.

“Tim Cook has got to cozy up to the local customers, but more importantly, to local officials,” Ma said. “Part of the messaging that he is probably hoping to establish while he is here is to emphasize how important China is to his company.”

And for what revenue the iPhone XS cannot generate, market watchers see the more affordable iPhone XR helping to bridge the gap — it’s up for pre-orders in a week.

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