In the early morning of July 18, Jack Ma, China’s richest man and the founder of Alibaba Group, leading a group of Chinese business tycoons, arrived at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington D.C. With Ma sitting next to Wilbur L. Ross, the U.S. secretary of commerce, the two sides off the US-China Business Leaders Summit.
Ma co-hosted the Summit with Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of the private-equity firm the Blackstone Group. Ma and his team of tycoons will have a daylong meeting with their U.S. counterparts — the leaders of 12 major U.S. companies that have greatly invested in China.
The timing of the Summit is noteworthy. On July 17, U.S. President Donald Trump just announced the start of the administration’s “Made in America”-themed week, celebrating U.S.-made products and promoting his “buy American and hire American” agenda. Then, on July 19 — one day after the Business Summit — an economic policy discussion between the U.S. and Chinese governments will be held. It’s not certain if Trump purposefully launched the “Made in America” week in the face of the coming Chinese businessmen and Chinese government officials, but the coincidence has left a sour impression with the Chinese regardless.
In the brief press meeting before the meeting, Ma voiced his goal for the Summit: “We will certainly discuss today our individual company’s priorities and outcomes; we must also seize the opportunity as a group to set out a vision for broader cooperation.”
Regarding U.S.-China relations, Ma said:
Over the past decades, our two countries have advanced far past a simple trading and investment relationship. It is much more than “made in America” or “made in China.” Our relationship today reflects a deep business partnership where capital, people, and ideas are fully integrated.
Finally, he proposed to that his U.S. counterparts “look forward, not backward”:
I encourage us all to not let problems of the past limit our future potential. As in all deep and complex economic relationships, disputes whether on trade or investment are natural and expected. In these areas, we should encourage our governments to use existing mechanisms to resolve these disputes respectfully and efficiently.
Although Ma’s kick-off speech sounds positive and promising, it’s hard to imagine that both parties could really achieve anything material within a one-day meeting.
Also at the press meeting, Ross’s brief comment that the United States still needs to review the serious trade imbalance between China and the U.S. seemed to set the tone for the following meetings between the two governments.
Below is the attendees list for the Summit:
Jack MA,Co-Chairman, U.S.-China Business Leaders Summit, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group
YU Xubo, President, COFCO Corporation
WANG Yusuo, Chairman, ENN Group
TIAN Guoli, Chairman, Bank of China
Frank NING, Chairman of the Board, Sinochem Group
ZHANG Jindong, Chairman, Suning Holdings Group
TU Guangshao, Vice Chairman and President, China Investment Corporation
CHO Tak Wong, Chairman, Fuyao Glass Industry Co., Ltd
Stephen A. Schwarzman, Co-Chairman, US-China Business Leaders Summit; Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder, The Blackstone Group L.P.
Mary T. Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors Company
Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson
Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.
Thomas P. Hayes, CEO, Tyson Foods
Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric (GE)
Ryan Lance, Chairman and CEO, ConocoPhillips
Doug McMillon, President and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO, IBM
Jay Timmons, President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers
Jim Umpleby, CEO, Caterpillar Inc..
ZHU Min, Head of National Institute of Financial Research, Tsinghua University
Charlotte Gao holds a MA degree in Asian Studies. Her research interests center around East Asian topics. She has worked in the past as a news editor, reporter, and writer for multiple traditional, online, and new media outlets.