AmCham report urges better bilateral ties

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/17 21:18:54

US firms should help ease tensions, not raise them: analysts

A cargo ship from the US moors at a port in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province in April. Photo: IC

The leading US business group in China on Wednesday urged China and the US to restore trust through concrete actions as tensions between the world's two largest economies continue to worsen, warning that further escalation could pose greater challenge to businesses.

Though vowing to help the two countries improve ties, the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China), in an annual white paper policy report, walked a fine line between opposing various actions by the US government that many in China believe to have deteriorated bilateral ties and helping the US administration maintain pressure on China for structural changes.

Such a cynical and opportunistic stance from AmCham China, which has long played a constructive role in China-US ties, could be counterproductive and even increase tension, Chinese analysts warned.

AmCham China said that US businesses are continuing to face challenges in the Chinese market due to tensions in the bilateral relationship and issues in China's market conditions.

"US companies continue to face an uncertain operating environment in China and decreasing optimism about their investment outlook," the white paper said, adding that the changes largely stem from bilateral tensions.

"2018 was a seminal year for the US-China relationship," the paper said. "As the two largest economies in the world, the US and China remain intertwined through trade and investment, but trust between the two nations has plummeted."

China and the US have been locked in a yearlong trade war that hurts not only Chinese and US businesses but also the global market. 

Even as negotiations to end the trade dispute appear to be making progress, tensions continue to increase, with the US continuing to crack down on Chinese technology firms and restrict visas for Chinese students and scholars. 

"I haven't seen anything this intense in the last two decades, and I think the governments deserve a lot of credit for their efforts, but there are a lot of challenges and there's a lot of uncertainty," Tim Stratford, chairman of AmCham China, told reporters on Wednesday.

Stratford said that AmCham China is working to help the two countries  restore trust. "I think that we can play a role in helping each side understand the legitimate concerns of the other side. And I think that's an important part of laying the foundation for greater trust," he said.


AmCham China and the US business community in China as a whole have played an very important role in the China-US relationship, but amid hardship the group has adopted a more aggressive stance, said Wang Jun, deputy director of the Department of Information at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

"It is understandable that US businesses are facing some tough times in China because of slower economic growth and declining demand, but that's true for all companies, including Chinese companies. It's not helpful to just simply point the finger at China." 

The AmCham report also contained complaints about what it describes as longstanding challenges with respect to a level playing field for US companies, including forced technology transfers, discriminatory economic policies and cybertheft, claims that have been repeatedly denied by Chinese officials.

The group suggested that to force China to make changes in these areas, US businesses would even be willing to accept short-term pain. Lester Ross, a chair of the AmCham China Policy Committee, said that US companies, though not happy about the tariffs, "recognize that the tariffs played a major role in advancing negotiations, in raising the profile, the prominence of the issues which they confront."

"They want it both ways. On the one hand, they want the two countries to improve ties; but on the other, they lobby the US government to take a firmer stance toward China," said Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. "They should build bridges [between the two countries] and not pour gasoline on the fire," he said, suggesting that "some US businesses might be behind the US hostility toward China."


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