Xi Jinping meets US CEOs as American businesses seek to fix China ties

On Wednesday, China’s President Xi Jinping convened a meeting with top US executives, including Evan Greenberg of Chubb and Cristiano Amon of Qualcomm, in a bid to mend strained relations exacerbated by geopolitical and trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies. The gathering took place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and featured a photo session with the executives, as reported by the state news agency Xinhua. Notable figures such as Mark Carney of Bloomberg and Raj Subramaniam of FedEx were also present, with Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone reportedly joining the gathering.

The meeting coincided with heightened concerns among China’s trading partners regarding Beijing’s significant investments in manufacturing, aimed at counteracting a substantial property slowdown. This surge in manufacturing capacity has raised fears of oversupply and potential dumping in international markets.

The chief executives were in Beijing to attend the China Development Forum, the city’s premier annual business conference. The meeting with President Xi followed a similar gathering in November, organized during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco. Representatives from the US-China Business Council and the National Committee on US-China Relations, including Craig Allen and Stephen Orlins, were also present.

While tensions between the US and China have somewhat eased since bilateral talks between Xi and US President Joe Biden at the Apec forum, ongoing issues persist. The US has pledged to investigate whether imported Chinese electric vehicles pose security threats, while Beijing has restricted the use of Apple’s iPhone and Tesla vehicles in government offices and filed a World Trade Organization case against US EV subsidies.

In recent months, China has made efforts to present a more welcoming image to international businesses, following a decline in foreign direct investment last year. Notably, clarifications to new data laws were announced ahead of the China Development Forum, addressing concerns about cross-border data transfers.

Despite positive developments, structural challenges remain, and the absence of a briefing by China’s Premier Li Qiang at the conclusion of the rubber-stamp parliament’s annual meeting signals a departure from previous years’ practices. However, attendees noted increased bilateral meetings and more direct conversations compared to previous years, suggesting a shift in approach from Chinese leadership.

Amid signs of economic stabilization, with industrial profits up 10.2% for the January-February period, sentiments among CEOs at the China Development Forum were notably more vocal and optimistic compared to previous years. However, uncertainties persist regarding the true extent of China’s economic confidence amidst ongoing structural challenges.