Xi issues a positive message in meeting with US business leaders as relations improve

President Xi Jinpin walks with representatives from American business, strategic and academic communities at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, yesterday

China’s leader Xi Jinping has called for closer trade ties with the U.S. during a meeting with top American business leaders in Beijing that comes amid a steady improvement in relations that had sunk to the lowest level in years.

Xi emphasized yesterday 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.

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 said China was again contributing to world economic growth in the double digits percentage-wise.

“Sino-U.S. relations are one of the most important bilateral relations in the world. Whether China and the United States cooperate or confront each other has a bearing on the well-being of the two peoples and the future and destiny of mankind,” Xi was cited as saying by China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

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

Trade and tariffs have increasingly drawn attention in the runup 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, that they blame in part on China’s massive trade surplus that amounted to more than $279 billion last year, its lowest level in about a decade.

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

But Xi’s administration has maintained a hard line on issues it considers its “core interests.” A 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 respective successes of China and the United States create opportunities for each other,” Xi was cited as saying by Xinhua. “As long as both sides regard the other as partners, respect each other, peacefully coexist and join together for win-win results, China-U.S. relations will improve.” MDT/AP

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