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China’s Xi Jinping Meets With US Business Leaders  

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China’s Xi Jinping Meets With US Business Leaders  

Xi emphasized the mutually beneficial economic ties between the two, despite heavy U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports and restrictions on China’s tech sector.

China’s Xi Jinping Meets With US Business Leaders  

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, walks with representatives from American business, strategic and academic communities at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Mar. 27, 2024.

Credit: Shen Hong/Xinhua via AP

China’s nationalist leader, Xi Jinping, called for closer trade ties with the United States during a meeting on Wednesday with top American business leaders. The gathering in Beijing came amid a steady improvement in relations that had sunk to the lowest level in years.

Xi emphasized the mutually beneficial economic ties between the world’s two largest economies, despite heavy U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports and Washington’s accusations of undue Communist Party influence, unfair trade barriers and theft of intellectual property.

“[T]he China-U.S. relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Whether China and the United States have a cooperative or confrontational relationship bears on the well-being of the Chinese and American peoples and the future of humanity.,” Xi was cited as saying by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Xi also sought to counter the narrative that China’s economic momentum has dissipated. China’s economy has struggled to recover from severe self-imposed restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic that it lifted only at the end of 2022. But Xi stressed that China had “one of the highest growth rates among the major economies” and contributed around 30 percent of world economic growth in 2023.

Participants at the meeting included Stephen A. Schwarzman, the billionaire head of investment firm Blackstone.

Trade and tariffs have increasingly drawn attention in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, and the Biden administration has shown little sign of moderating punitive measures against Chinese imports imposed by his predecessor and assumed rival in the November polls, Donald Trump.

U.S. officials have renewed concerns over Chinese industrial policy practices and overcapacity, and the resulting impact on U.S. workers and companies. As evidence, they point to China’s massive trade surplus, which amounted to more than $279 billion last year, its lowest level in about a decade.

Following the meeting, the U.S.-China Business Council said in a statement that it was honored to have a dialogue with China’s top leader to “discuss our concerns over the decline in trade, investment, and business confidence, as well as our desire to help improve engagement and commercial exchange between our two countries.”

“We stressed the importance of rebalancing China’s economy by increasing consumption there and encouraged the government to further address longstanding concerns with cross-border data flows, government procurement, better protection of intellectual property rights, and improved regulatory transparency and predictability,” the Washington-based council said. Its president, Craig Allen, was among the guests that met Xi.

China’s economy has been bogged down by a crisis in its property market in which builders are struggling under mountains of debt, and buyers are paying off loans on apartments that may never be completed. Other issues, such as an aging population and high youth unemployment, are prompting China’s leaders to lean more heavily on boosting export manufacturing to make up for weak demand at home.

At the same time, scores of foreign firms, including Apple, rely on China-based manufacturers as key links in their supply chains, along with the country’s 1.3 billion consumers for a high percentage of their global sales.

China’s formerly highly abrasive tone toward the United States has softened in recent months, particularly since Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden met in San Francisco in November. Officials such as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have visited China, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is reportedly due to travel there again to meet top leaders next month.

But Xi’s administration has maintained a hard line on issues it considers its “core interests.” Those include its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan – a close American ally – and its heavy-handed rule of outlying regions such as Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

An ardent nationalist and son of one of the founders of the People’s Republic, Xi appears determined to maintain strict party control while drawing in foreign investment to shore up the economy.

“The two countries’ respective success is an opportunity for each other,” Xi was quoted as saying by the Foreign Ministry. “As long as both sides see each other as partners and show mutual respect, coexist in peace and cooperate for win-win results, China-U.S. relations will get better.”