Chinese leader Xi issues positive message during meeting with US business leaders as relations improve

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese nationalist leader Xi Jinping called for closer trade ties with the United States during a meeting Wednesday with top American business leaders in Beijing that came amid a steady improvement in relations that have fallen to their lowest level in years.

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

China's economy has suffered To recover from the strict self-imposed restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic that it has only lifted At the end of 2022. But Xi said China is once again contributing to global economic growth of more than 10%.

“China-US relations are one of the most important bilateral relations in the world. Whether China and the United States cooperate or confront each other has an impact on the well-being of the two peoples and the future and destiny of humanity,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.

Among the meeting participants was Stephen A. Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman of the investment firm Blackstone.

Trade and tariffs have drawn increasing attention in Before the US presidential electionsThe Biden administration has shown little sign of easing punitive measures against Chinese imports imposed by his predecessor and presumed rival in the November election, Donald Trump.

U.S. officials have renewed concerns about China's industrial policy practices and excess capacity, and the resulting impact on American workers and companies, which they partly blame for China's huge trade surplus that reached more than $279 billion last year, its lowest level in nearly a decade. .

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Following the meeting, the US-China Business Council said in a statement that it was honored to hold a dialogue with the country's supreme leader “to discuss our concerns about the decline in trade, investment and business confidence, as well as our desire to help improve trade engagement and exchange between our two countries.”

“We stressed the importance of rebalancing the Chinese economy by increasing consumption there and encouraged the government to address long-standing concerns about cross-border data flows, government procurement, improve intellectual property rights protection, and improve regulatory transparency and predictability.” Its head, Craig Allen, was among the guests who met Xi, its headquarters said.

China's economy is suffering from a real estate crisis, with construction workers struggling under mountains of debt and buyers paying off loans on apartments that may never be completed. Other issues, such as an aging population and high youth unemployment, are pushing China's leaders to rely more on boosting export manufacturing to compensate for weak demand at home.

Meanwhile, dozens of foreign companies, including Apple, rely on Chinese 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.

In recent months, China's harshly hostile tone towards the United States has declined in recent months, and especially since then Xi and Biden met In San Francisco in November. Officials such as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have visited, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to travel to China again to meet with senior leaders next month.

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But Xi Jinping's administration has maintained a tough stance on issues it considers its “core interests.” These include its sovereignty claims over almost the entire South China Sea, the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan – a close US ally – and its strict rule over outlying regions such as Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

Xi, an ardent nationalist and son of one of the founders of the People's Republic, appears intent on maintaining tight party control while attracting foreign investment to prop up the economy.

“The successes achieved by China and the United States create opportunities for each other. As long as both sides regard each other as partners, respect each other, coexist peacefully and join together to achieve a win-win situation,” Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying. “The results will improve China-US relations.”

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