Raimondo ends ‘successful and productive’ China visit; sustaining stable ties critical to pave way for possible leaders’ meeting in Nov
Published: Aug 30, 2023 10:24 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

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo wrapped up her "successful and productive" four-day high-stakes visit to China on Wednesday, with the visit yielding material results, including the establishment of new communication channels to seek solutions to specific business issues and support for enterprises of the two countries in carrying out pragmatic cooperation.

Chinese observers welcomed the positive progress made in the China-US economic and trade relationship during Raimondo's visit, but urged the US side to match its words with deeds. They said both sides are anticipated to maintain the largely stable China-US relationship over the next period to pave the way for a possible meeting of the leaders of the two countries at the APEC leaders' meeting in November in the US.

They said the progress in the China-US relationship is also due to growth in China's strength, and that China is no longer passive and will be increasingly capable of pushing China-US relations back to the normal track. Instead, the frequent visits of senior US officials to China reflect that Washington knows very well that it cannot deal a fatal blow to China with restrictions or by "decoupling," and rather the hegemonic measures will backfire on the US itself.

'Successful and productive'

"We have had a very successful and productive couple of days here," Raimondo said at a conference for women executives in Shanghai on Wednesday morning.

The US and China have a massive and consequential economic relationship, which is good for the world, good for China and good for America, Raimondo said, noting that Washington wants US companies to invest and grow in the Chinese market.

In a meeting with Raimondo in Shanghai on Wednesday, Chen Jining, Shanghai's Party chief emphasized the world needs a healthy and stable China-US relationship and vowed high-quality opening-up and improving business climate.   

Raimondo landed in Beijing on Sunday and met several senior Chinese officials before flying to Shanghai. Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with Raimondo on Tuesday in Beijing, calling on both sides to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation, the Xinhua News Agency reported. China is willing to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with the US on the economy and trade, and to promote the sound development of bilateral economic and trade relations, Li said, noting that he hopes that the US will work with China in the same direction.

Raimondo is the fourth senior US official to visit China since June, following on from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

During Raimondo's visit, the two sides also announced they will establish new communication channels between the commerce authorities, including a working group consisting of Chinese and US officials and business representatives to seek solutions on specific commercial issues, according to the Chinese Commerce Ministry.

The establishment of the new communication mechanism shows both sides pay high attention to the bilateral economic and trade relationship, and that the two sides are willing to maintain dialogue to avoid escalation of conflicts although they have major differences, He Weiwen, senior fellow of the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"However, the US tends to say the fine words, but does bad things. We must look at what the US does instead of what it says," He said, noting that Washington's two-faced approach is fundamentally unchanged - cracking down on China where it can while seeking to cooperate with China where it needs to.

During the four-day visit, Raimondo repeatedly mentioned that Washington seeks "healthy competition" with China and has no intention of containing China's development or "decoupling" from China.

Raimondo's softened tone reflects that the US has realized that China is not as passive as it previously was and that the US cannot completely decouple from China, Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Amid Raimondo's visit in China, Chinese tech giant Huawei on Tuesday surprised the market by unveiling its Mate60 Pro smartphone, which the company said is the most powerful of the series, with new breakthroughs in aspects including satellite communications, artificial intelligence and Kunlun Glass, a screen that is high performing on the inside and toughened on the outside.

The news became a trending topic on China's Sina Weibo, with the hashtag "Huaweimate60" generating views of 790 million within 20 hours of Huawei's announcement.

Netizens' excitement over Huawei's new smartphone reflects the expectations of the whole country for core technology breakthroughs amid the US' intensifying containment of China, Hao Min, dean of the Department of Law of the University of International Relations, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"This is forceful proof of the failure of the US' export restrictions and crackdown on China and Chinese tech firms," Hao said, noting that the US could not hinder China's technological rise but rather is accelerating China's pace to seek technological self-reliance.

Decoupling impossible

It is impossible for the Biden administration to push toward real economic decoupling with China, which is not only a large manufacturing base but also a huge market for the US business communities, Huo Jianguo, a vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Cooperation instead of decoupling yields win-win results for both the US and China. Most US companies in China yielded profits and many have announced plans to expand investment in China this year, since the economy remains a stabilizer of global economic growth," Huo said.

Raimondo visited Shanghai Disneyland and a Boeing facility in Shanghai  on Wednesday, touting two prominent American exports, Reuters reported. "It's an important form of soft power for the US," Raimondo said. "It's an iconic US brand, it's gorgeous."

Boeing recently announced the appointment of Alvin Liu, a China market veteran as president of Boeing China, effective September 1, highlighting the importance of the Chinese market to the multinational.

"There would be no winners in a conflict or confrontation between China and the US, it would instead spell disaster for the world. The only right choice for the two countries is to combat global challenges together and provide more peace and development dividends to the world," said Chinese Ambassador to the US Xie Feng in a speech delivered to the 5th US-China Business Forum on Tuesday.

 "It is hoped that the US side could earnestly implement its expression of 'not seeking decoupling from China,' and create a sound environment for the healthy development of bilateral economic and trade relationship," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

China enjoys several distinct advantages: a socialist market economy in systemic terms, a supersize market in terms of demand, a full-fledged industrial system in terms of supply, and abundant, high-caliber labor force and entrepreneurs in terms of human resources, which make it a major destination for global investment, Wang said. Citing an AmCham China survey, Wang said 66 percent of US companies in China will maintain or increase investment in China over the next two years. 

Challenges persist

However, the US' strategy toward China of containment and decoupling is fundamentally ingrained, and is unlikely to change with just one or several visits, Yu Xiang, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Biden administration may continue to step up high-tech export controls on China and may even restrict other major Western capital investment in China's high tech sector, Yu said.

"We will protect what we must, and promote what we can. That means 'national security' is non-negotiable, but despite that there are plenty of businesses we could do," Raimondo told reporters during a brief online conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Regardless of the US' own list of numerous sanctions, export controls and other coercive measures targeting China, Raimondo again hyped China's so-called non-market practices, intellectual property issues and subsidies.

The Chinese side expressed serious concerns over US practices, including Section 301 tariffs on Chinese exports, semiconductor policies, two-way investment restrictions, discriminatory subsidies and sanctions targeting Chinese companies.

"Both sides clearly know the US' two-faced strategies and the Chinese side has set aside a lot of reserve policies in addition to countermeasures already announced," Yu said. In addition to promoting high-level opening-up, the Chinese central government has always been focused on strengthening domestic development to enhance its tech capability, which is a fundamental way to break Western tech blocks.

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade said on Wednesday that the Biden administration's newly-announced investment restrictions in key technologies like chips and artificial intelligence (AI) in China is a typical act of using government power to interfere in market operations, undermine competition and suppress the industrial development of other countries, which violates WTO principles of non-discrimination, fairness and free trade.

"The US restrictions and review mechanism on outbound investment purposely distort normal cross-border fundraising and operations of Chinese firms with the excuse of so-called 'national security,' and indiscriminately ban and censor international capital flow into China," the council said at a press briefing held in Beijing, stressing that the US' actions will also harm industrial chains that are highly reliant on global division and cooperation.