US commerce chief to visit China in positive signal for growing talks; Washington urged to show sincerity
Washington must show sincerity in addressing Beijing's concerns to improve ties: experts
Published: Aug 22, 2023 05:49 PM


At the invitation of Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will visit China starting on Sunday, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) announced on Tuesday, sending another signal that the world's two biggest economies remain committed to dialogue even as bilateral relations are still at the lowest ebb in decades.

The announcement of Raimondo's visit came after several high-level visits to China by senior US officials in recent months and just one day after the US lifted restrictions on more than two dozen Chinese firms and approved more Chinese flights, which experts said further helps create a positive atmosphere for the upcoming talks.

During the closely watched visit, there are a litany of issues to be discussed, including China's concerns over the lingering US punitive tariffs, crackdowns on Chinese firms, restrictions on trade and investments, and other issues. Analysts said that the two sides are expected to raise their concerns during meetings, which is conducive for both sides to address them; however, any major breakthroughs are unlikely unless the US shows sincerity. 

Following weeks of speculation, the MOFCOM announced on Tuesday that Raimondo will visit China from August 27 to 30. The brief statement did not provide further details on the visit, including schedules for meetings. For its part, the US Commerce Department said in a statement that Raimondo "looks forward to constructive discussions" during the visit.

The visit in itself sends a positive signal for the world, particularly the global business community, as many businesses are worried about the continuously deteriorating ties between the world's two biggest economies, Chinese analysts said.

"The two sides may discuss issues such as trade disputes, market access, intellectual property protection and innovation cooperation. Such talks are conducive to enhancing mutual understanding of each other's concerns and interests, and promoting the progress of bilateral relations in a balance between cooperation and competition," Hong Yong, an expert at the digital real economies integration Forum 50, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that any positive outcomes from the talks would help stabilize bilateral ties.

Adding to the positive signals was a pair of moves from the US on Monday (US time), right before the announcement of Raimondo's trip. In a significant move, the US Commerce Department removed 27 Chinese entities from its so-called "unverified list," which contains foreign entities that are restricted from purchasing US technologies. In a separate move, the US Department of Transportation announced that it has agreed to add six more flights operated by Chinese airlines, effective September 1. 

The moves are seen by Chinese analysts as active steps by US authorities to create better conditions for the upcoming talks. 

"I think these should be regarded as a positive signal. They appear to be a friendly gesture that paves the way for a friendly atmosphere for Raimondo's visit to China," Tian Yun, a Beijing-based expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "While the US side wants to continue to contain China… it also needs to ease economic and trade tension with China because it needs better economic data to build momentum for next year's general election." 

Raimondo's visit follows several high-level visits by US officials to China over the past three months or so. In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China for the first time as the top US diplomat. Then in July, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited China. Also in July, US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry visited Beijing.

While the US has continued to step up its crackdown on China, including most recently US President Joe Biden's signing of an executive order to restrict US investment in Chinese technology companies, the increased official exchanges also represented a positive trend, Chinese experts said.

"This is a positive signal from both sides. With the increased flights and other moves, the situation is still on a trend toward what both sides want to see," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday, expressing hope for progress in various areas. 

Still, many Chinese experts, while welcoming increased exchanges between Chinese and US officials, also urged properly managing expectations for the talks, given Washington's two-faced approach - cracking down on China where it can, while seeking to cooperate with China where it needs to. 

"The final key [to any positive progress] depends on whether the US side can demonstrate sincerity," Tian said.

If Raimondo's agenda is to discuss win-win cooperation, it will be welcomed by both the Chinese government and the Chinese business community, Li Yong, a senior research fellow at the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Tuesday. However, the US needs to make serious efforts in repairing bilateral economic and trade ties, which have been under the negative impact of the policies of the Biden administration, he said.

Li said that while the US government sees China as a competitor, most US businesses see China as an opportunity, pointing to a recent visit by a US business delegation to Beijing. 

Many US business executives have been visiting China and meeting with Chinese officials, as they continue to explore and expand in the Chinese market.

On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with a US business delegation led by Marc Casper, chair of the US-China Business Council, and said that China-US relations and economic and trade cooperation currently face difficulties, which require both sides to show sincerity, but the two countries can still achieve common development. 

On Tuesday, Wang Shouwen, a Chinese vice commerce minister, also met with the USCBC delegation and expressed hope that the USCBC and its members continue to actively participating in pragmatic bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

Casper praised China's concrete measures in opening-up and improving the business environment, and said that the USCBC will continue to play an active role in stabilizing economic and trade relations between the two countries, according to a statement from the Ministry of Commerce.