China Tries to Mend U.S. Ties by Ramping Up Talks With Firms

China is taking more direct steps to mend relations with U.S. investors, ramping up its communication with businesses in an environment of heightened economic tensions between the two nations.

Officials from the National Development and Reform Commission, the government’s top economic planning body, met Tuesday with representatives of companies like Tesla Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Dell Technologies Inc. -- the first of possibly more similar meetings planned with U.S. firms.

Separately, Premier Li Keqiang spoke to U.S. business leaders Tuesday on a video conference hosted by former U.S. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, saying economic “decoupling” between the two nations serves no good. And next week high-profile American executives like Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook and Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk will participate in China’s Boao Forum for Asia.

China Tries to Mend U.S. Ties by Ramping Up Talks With Firms

Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of the NDRC, told delegates at Tuesday’s meeting that business circles in China and the U.S. have formed “a community of shared interests,” and their economic exchanges have been growing. The commission is seeking a mechanism to communicate with U.S. businesses to “exchange information and clear up confusion,” he said.

Ties between the U.S. and China deteriorated to the worst in decades under former President Donald Trump. And while China has expressed optimism that relations would improve under the Biden administration, tensions between the two superpowers remain over issues ranging from human rights and Taiwan to geopolitics.

“China wants to show the U.S. government through these meetings that China is a market for the U.S., not only a production site,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV in Hong Kong. However, tensions between the two countries aren’t going to go away in the business area only with these meetings as the U.S. continues to restrict Chinese businesses from access to advanced technologies, she said.

China is gradually opening up its economy and financial system to overseas investors and is reliant on foreign investment to meet its ambitious growth targets.

In the Tuesday meeting, Ning and other officials from the commission provided more details of China’s five-year economic plan, such as its carbon neutral initiative and digital economy goals. Representatives of the American firms asked questions about the protection of intellectual property rights, how China would mend trade relations with the U.S. and how businesses could leverage the five-year plan to expand their operations.

“The U.S. companies can talk to relevant Chinese government in a frank manner for their problems -- no matter its business operation or trade relations,” said Zhang Huanteng, a deputy director at the commission’s general department.

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