Xi Meets US CEOs, Seeking to Boost Confidence in China’s Economy

(Bloomberg) — President Xi Jinping met with a group of American business executives in Beijing including Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and Qualcomm Inc.’s Cristiano Amon as China is seeking to restore confidence in the economy and keep relations with the US on a stable footing.

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The Chinese leader on Wednesday met with representatives from American business, strategic and academic communities, the official Xinhua News Agency said. State broadcaster CCTV named a number of executives present at the meeting and said Xi took a group photo with the participants before the event.

China is trying to show it welcomes foreign businesses, but whipsawing tensions with Washington, a shaky economic recovery and raids on consulting firms have damped investor enthusiasm. For global executives, the meeting was a chance to underscore interest in participating in the giant Chinese market despite deepening geopolitical tensions and moves in China to favor local competitors.

Other attendees include Raj Subramaniam, chief executive officer of FedEx Corp.; Evan Greenberg, CEO of the insurer Chubb Ltd.; Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations; Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council; and Mark Carney, chairman of Bloomberg Inc., according to CCTV.

US-China ties have stabilized after Xi met with President Joe Biden in San Francisco in November, although they continue to dispute over a broad range of issues spanning trade curbs and accusations of cyberattacks.

On Tuesday, China said it filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization over US electric vehicle subsidies. Earlier in the week, the US and UK accused state-backed Chinese hackers of targeting politicians, companies and dissidents, as well as stealing troves of British voter data.

Relations with the US risk worsening with former President Donald Trump already vowing massive tariffs on the campaign trail that could shrink trade between the two nations to practically nothing. Trump’s rhetoric may add pressure on Biden to take harsher measures in the run-up to election day.

Read More: Tim Cook’s Love for China Helps Xi Fight Fears of Economic Slump

China appears to be ramping up outreach to foreign investors as it seeks to achieve an annual growth target of around 5%, a goal deemed ambitious by some economists. The Ministry of Commerce in January pledged to hold a round-table meeting with foreign companies every month to hear and address their concerns.

However, investors have complained about whiplash as China pursues its dual goals of development and security, with executives hearing warm words only to then see authorities probe consultancy firms, expand a vague anti-spy law and restrict access to data. A structural economic slowdown has also led executives to re-evaluate the balance between risks and rewards for operating in the country.

Prior to the pandemic, Xi used to hold more regular gatherings with executives at events such as the annual Boao Forum for Asia, which is sometimes described as China’s Davos. He’s not expected to attend this year’s conference, which started Tuesday in Hainan.

Read More: US CEOs Extend China Stay on Last-Minute Invite to Meet Xi

Many US CEOs are in Beijing for the annual China Development Forum, which gathers together global business leaders and Chinese officials. Some executives attending the confab extended their stay or moved previously planned appointments in order to meet with Xi after receiving a formal invitation last week, Bloomberg News reported.

(Updates with names of CEOs who attended the meeting and additional context throughout)

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