China willing to promote more trade dialogues with US; Washington urged to meet Beijing halfway: Premier Li
Published: Aug 29, 2023 10:31 PM Updated: Aug 29, 2023 11:55 PM
Chinese Premier Li Qiang shakes hands with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 29, 2023.Photo: Xinhua

Chinese Premier Li Qiang shakes hands with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 29, 2023.Photo: Xinhua

Chinese Premier Li Qiang expressed China's willingness to have more dialogues over trade issues when he met with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Beijing on Tuesday, the second day of the US trade chief's China visit. Meanwhile, Li called for more concrete efforts from the US side to push forward the sound development of relations between China and the US, the world's two largest economies.

Li said that mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation are the correct ways for China and the US to get along, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday. Li noted that the essence of China-US economic and trade relations is mutual benefit and win-win results. 

"It is hoped that the US will meet China halfway," the Chinese premier said.

The high-level meeting comes after Raimondo's several "candid and constructive" talks with top Chinese officials, including Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.

During Raimondo's talks with He, the two agreed to maintain communication and support practical cooperation between enterprises of the two countries. After a roughly four-hour-and-half talk between Commerce Minister Wang and Raimondo, the two sides announced plans to establish a new trade communication channel, including a working group consisting of Chinese and US officials and business representatives to seek solutions on specific trade issues.

After holding meetings with Chinese officials on Monday and Tuesday in Beijing, Raimondo will head to Shanghai, accompanied by US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, according to a Reuters report. 

"Candid talks will be significant to reduce misunderstanding and misjudgment, so this series of high-level meetings will no doubt have positive significance for future China-US ties," Zhou Mi, a senior research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Zhou pointed out that tangible results have been achieved like the new working group, which is a step forward compared with the previous US officials' China visits. It would serve as an opportunity for the two to find future breakthroughs amid frosty ties. 

Pragmatic progress

The first exchange on the communication mechanism for export controls was scheduled be held on Tuesday in Beijing, but no details on the talks were released as of press time.

"At least we can anticipate some partial warming in the fields of economy and trade in the next step - as this is not only the needs of the US, but also in the needs of China," He Jun, a senior researcher with Anbound, an independent think tank, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

In a fresh move on Tuesday, China's Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping met with Raimondo in Beijing and agreed to hold a high-level tourism dialogue in the first half of 2024 to boost the travel recovery between the two countries.

The tourism industry should be one of the areas where the two countries will open up to each other in the next step. China and the US have increased the number of flights, and will add more, He said.

In early August, the US and China agreed to double the number of passenger flights currently permitted for air carriers to fly between the two countries.

"It is hoped that the US will work with China to further increase direct flights between the two countries, adjust travel alerts against going to China as soon as possible, facilitate Chinese citizens to apply for visas to the US, stop unreasonable interrogation and harassment of Chinese citizens and groups going to the US, and exchange visits for tourists from the two countries to create better conditions," the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement Tuesday.

In addition, analysts predict that some business activities and trips will continue to increase following Raimondo's visit, paving the way for more economic and trade exchanges between the two countries.

"Such a signal and willingness to reestablish communication is not only beneficial for both countries, but also significant for the stability of the global economy, and it will restore investment confidence to the markets," Zhou said.

During talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Raimondo said that the Biden administration has no intention of curbing China's development and does not seek to "decouple" from China. It is willing to maintain communication with China, maintain normal economic and trade relations between the US and China, and promote the stable development of bilateral relations, according to Xinhua.

"But of course, no one is counting on one meeting to resolve everything, but it can prevent the two to head toward 'decoupling,'" Zhou said.

Challenges ahead 

Although the series of meetings are believed to have generated a long-awaited sentiment of positivity between the two countries, observers said whether the two will see more progress depends on the US, as its unreasonable restrictions and tariffs on Chinese firms and products still pose major barriers for cooperation.

"No restrictions on China have been removed so far, indicating that the US' zero-sum mentality under the so-called national security excuse has not altered at all - This makes it difficult to move bilateral relations forward," Sang Baichuan, dean of the Institute of International Economy at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Any concrete progress will depend on the US, such as Washington scrapping its investment restrictions on Chinese high-tech firms to show its sincerity, Sang said.

On August 10, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting certain new US investments in China in sensitive technologies like computer chips and requiring government notification in other tech sectors. The order has faced strong pushback from US business communities.

The political and diplomatic relations between China and the US still face major hurdles, but the economic and trade relations between the two countries remain tight, and no one can ignore this, He Jun said. 

Moreover, China is both a huge production base and a huge market for the US, and the American business community cannot truly separate from China. It is hoped that the US can realize that the China-US economy and trade are deeply integrated, that cooperation will benefit both but confrontation will hurt both, so there can be a return to the stance of free trade as soon as possible, experts said.