Tim Cook in China to meet with government officials — and who else?

What’s Apple up to this week while the rest of the tech world focuses on the news out of Vegas? Its CEO hopped over to China to take some meetings. On Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a picture of Tim Cook at an official visit with Minister Miao Wei. It’s Cook’s second trip to the country as CEO in a little under a year.

Credit: China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

Credit: China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

The caption for the image says only that Cook and Wei talked about the IT and communications industries in China, and “exchanged views on development in China.” Apple isn’t providing additional details on the purpose of its CEO’s trip. The official image released of his trip this time around (above) looks not unlike a kind of diplomatic visit; a departure from the image that became emblematic of Cook’s last visit.

His high-profile trip in March 2012 was significant for a couple of reasons: it came shortly after the expose on the working conditions in the factories in Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partner Foxconn (hence the image of him on the factory floor); and because Cook’s predecessor never made official visits to the country. As Apple’s operations chief, Cook’s been making trips to China for years, but as CEO he clearly has additional concerns beyond checking in on how efficiently iPads and iPhones are being made.

And while Apple won’t say, we can make some educated guesses about why he’s in town: