Xi Jinping to Address U.S. Business Leaders Amid Rising Skepticism of China Ties

The Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who is set to to meet with President Biden in San Francisco next week, is expected to speak to top American business executives at a dinner following that bilateral meeting.

Mr. Xi, who is traveling to the United States for an international conference, will address business leaders at a challenging moment in U.S.-China relations. The United States has expressed growing concern about China’s military ambitions and has sought to cut off Beijing’s access to technology that could be used against the United States. China’s treatment of Western companies, which are facing tougher restrictions in how they do business, have also prompted firms to question the wisdom of investing in China.

Still, Chinese and American leaders have expressed interest in bolstering ties between their economies, the world’s two largest, which remain inextricably linked through trade. The Biden administration has sent several top officials to China this year to try to make clear that while the United States wants to protect national security, it does not seek to sever economic ties with Beijing.

It is unclear whether Mr. Xi’s visit will do much to alleviate the skepticism of foreign businesses, many of which are deterred both by China’s slowing economic growth and the tighter grip of the Chinese Communist Party on business activity under Mr. Xi.

Tickets to the dinner and reception, hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council, cost $2,000 each, according to an invitation circulating online. For $40,000, companies can purchase eight seats at a table plus one seat at Mr. Xi’s table, a person familiar with the event said.

Engagements between Chinese officials and the U.S. business sector will try to send the signal that China remains an attractive place to do business, “as evidenced by these companies flocking to meet with Xi Jinping and have dinner with him,” Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Beijing wants this for “tactical reasons,” Mr. Blanchette said. “I don’t think, at a broad level, they’re expecting or see the prospect of resetting or recalibrating the relationship.”

Foreign firms are particularly concerned about Chinese regulations that block them from selling to the government or into certain markets, and a broader counter-espionage law that can lead to prison time for company executives and researchers who deal in sensitive industries. At the same time, the United States is stepping up restrictions on investing and selling advanced technology to China, saying that such ties can pose national security concerns.

Many businesses still see China as an essential market, but an increasing number are starting to look to other countries for their new investments. A survey by the U.S.-China Business Council of its members this year found that 34 percent had stopped or reduced planned investment in China over the past year, a higher percentage than in previous years.

Mr. Blanchette said Chinese officials would also see the meeting as an opportunity to try to shift the U.S. trajectory on the technology controls it has placed on China. But the United States is unlikely to change its stance, he said.

“I think this will be one of the issues where the U.S. and China will have longstanding tensions. And I’m sure this will be communicated to Beijing,” Mr. Blanchette said.

The visit will be Mr. Xi’s first trip to the United States since 2017, when he met with President Donald J. Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Since then, U.S.-China business relations have changed drastically, with the countries carrying out a trade war and sparring over advanced technology and geopolitical influence, and China turning notably more authoritarian under Mr. Xi.

The dinner and reception featuring Mr. Xi will be part of a two-day “C.E.O. Summit” taking place next week on the sidelines of a bigger meeting of the leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, a group of 21 countries that ring the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Biden is expected to meet with Mr. Xi earlier next Wednesday, in their first face-to-face meeting in a year.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi are expected to discuss business and technology ties, as well as issues like communication between the countries’ militaries, stopping the flow of fentanyl to the United States and new agreements for governing artificial intelligence.

In recent weeks high-level Chinese officials have met with U.S. counterparts to lay the groundwork for the trip. In a news release Wednesday, the organizers of the C.E.O. summit said that Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi would be in attendance at the two-day summit, along with other world leaders and the chief executives of companies including Microsoft, Mastercard and Pfizer.

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