Sunday April 21st, 2024 10:35AM

China's Xi issues a positive message in meeting with U.S. business leaders as relations improve

By The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — China’s nationalist 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 Wednesday 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 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 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.” 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 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.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of China at https://apnews.com/hub/china

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Economy
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