Xi tells US firms China ready to be partner and friend, World News

SAN FRANCISCO — China is ready to be a partner and friend of the US, and there is plenty of room for bilateral cooperation, President Xi Jinping told American executives in San Francisco on Wednesday (Nov 15), as Beijing looks to reassure global business and counter his country’s struggles to entice foreign investment.

The US executives dined with Xi on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum following a day of talks between Xi and US President Joe Biden, aimed at steadying relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Xi received a standing ovation as he entered the room, and two more before and after he took the stage to speak.

The world needs China and the US to work together, and it is wrong to view China as a threat and play a zero-sum game against it, Xi said in a speech to the audience, including some hand-picked by Beijing.

“Whatever stage of development it may reach, China will never pursue hegemony or expansion, and will never impose its will on others. China does not seek spheres of influence, and will not fight a cold war or a hot war with anyone,” Xi said.

He assured his audience that “no matter how the global landscape evolves, the historical trend of peaceful coexistence between China and the US will not change”.

Xi’s optimistic tone toward relations with the US was at odds with the negative chorus of voices in Washington, where the US Congress finds unusual bipartisan consensus in the need to counter Beijing.

The high-security dinner was a chance for companies to hear directly from China’s leader as they search for ways to navigate China’s economic slowdown, a US push to “de-risk” some American supply chains away from China, and uncertainty caused by China’s expanding security rules.

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But Xi directed much of his speech toward the American people, and spent little time on commercial relations with the US.

“I would like to let you know that China sympathises deeply with the American people, especially the young, for the sufferings that fentanyl has inflicted upon them,” he said.

China and the US reached an agreement to curb fentanyl production in earlier talks between Xi and Biden.

The event attracted nearly 400 people, including government officials and academics. Courses served included coffee-crusted black angus flat iron steak and a vegetable curry with squash and rice.

Executives from US corporate giants such as Apple’s Tim Cook, BlackRock’s Laurence Fink, Broadcom’s Hock Tan, Bridgewater Associates’ Ray Dalio and Pfizer’s Albert Bourla were at the dinner tables.

Controversy

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other senior US officials also attended the event, which generated controversy due to reported high ticket costs for companies seeking to brush shoulders with Xi.

Mike Gallagher, the Republican chairman of the US House of Representatives’ select committee on China, had called it “unconscionable” that American companies would pay thousands of dollars to join a dinner with a government the US says is committing genocide against Muslim Uyghurs.

Gallagher sent a letter on Monday to the hosts — the US-China Business Council and the National Committee on US-China Relations — demanding a complete list of individuals and companies that purchased tickets to the dinner.

Analysts have said Xi’s speech alone is unlikely to dramatically alter US business sentiment about China.

US and Chinese officials have often described bilateral business and trade relations as the ballast in otherwise contentious ties with the US. But the growing economic and geopolitical rivalry between the superpowers has placed companies from both countries in the crosshairs of the other’s government.

China has grown more suspicious of engagement with Western companies, in line with Xi’s emphasis on self-reliance and national security, and this year it has cracked down on some US consultancy and due-diligence firms, further damaging investor confidence.

But Gary Dvorchak, whose family hosted Xi in Iowa in 1985 when the Chinese leader was a young official, and who was invited by Beijing to attend the dinner, said Xi’s appearance was savvy public relations, allowing the ruling Communist Party to show a Chinese domestic audience he has appeal to regular people.

“It humanises him and it gives him an ability to show a connection to the American people and bypass the American media,” Dvorchak said.

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