U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Aug. 28 had the first face-to-face meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao, during which the two sides agreed to have regular talks by setting up a new working group and launching dialogues on export control enforcement information.
Ms. Raimondo arrived in Beijing on the night of Aug. 27, becoming the first U.S. commerce chief to set foot in China in seven years. The trip also came as the communist regime is wrestling with a faltering economy. Analysts say Chinese officials are running out of options to address the issue and hope that the United States could lend a hand.
“It is profoundly important that we have a stable economic relationship, which is to the benefit of both of our countries. And, in fact, what the world expects of us,” Ms. Raimondo said ahead of the meeting. “It’s a complicated relationship. It’s a challenging relationship. We will, of course, disagree on certain issues, but I believe that we can make progress if we are direct, open, and practical.”
With the bilateral ties worsening and tensions simmering, the Biden administration is seeking to reopen high-level communication lines with China and has sent four cabinet officials to Beijing in the span of three months.
As for China, no senior official has visited Washington since the lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns at the end of 2022. The United States formally extended an invitation to China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, who was reappointed to the foreign minister’s post in July after his predecessor’s abrupt dismissal. But the State Department said earlier this month that it didn’t receive a response from China.
Mr. Wang told Ms. Raimondo that the economic ties between China and the United States are important not just to the two countries but also to the whole world.
He said Beijing was ready to work with Washington to “foster a more favorable policy environment” for cooperation between the two countries’ businesses to “bolster bilateral trade and investment in a stable and predictable manner.”
The new leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has repeatedly assured foreign businesses that China would continue to open up and welcome foreign investment. Wang Wentao told a March business forum, “You are not foreigners, but family.”
However, since then, the Chinese authorities have conducted a series of anti-spy crackdowns, raiding the offices of consultancy Capvision, questioning employees at U.S. due-diligence firm Bain & Company, and detaining staff from Japanese drugmaker Astellas.
The authorities have slapped Mintz, another U.S. due-diligence firm, with a $1.5 million fine in a security crackdown after police raided its Beijing office and detained five local employees.
The environment has become increasingly hostile for Americans doing business in China as the updated anti-espionage law came into force in July. The legislation expanded the definition of espionage to include “all documents, data, materials, or items related to national security and interests.” The vaguely worded legislation, which doesn’t specify what falls under national security, alarmed the United States, which warned in a National Counterintelligence and Security Center bulletin that U.S. firms could be punished for regular business activities.
The deteriorating business environment is on the list of potential subjects that Ms. Raimondo will tackle during her four-day visit. Her trip includes meetings with senior Chinese officials and U.S. business leaders in Beijing and Shanghai.
New Working Groups, Dialogues
According to the summary of the Aug. 28 meeting released by the U.S. Commerce Department, the two sides agreed to create a “commercial issues working group” to “seek solutions on trade and investment issues and to advance U.S. commercial interests in China.”
The mechanism will involve U.S. and Chinese officials and private-sector representatives, according to the statement. The working group will meet twice every year, and the meeting will occur at the vice minister level.
Another agreement reached during the talks was to launch an “export control enforcement information exchange,” which would provide a “platform to reduce misunderstandings of U.S. national security policies,” according to the statement. The first face-to-face meeting was set to be held at the assistant secretary level at the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing on Aug. 29.
Speaking after the Aug. 28 meeting with Mr. Wang, Ms. Raimondo said the United States wouldn’t compromise with the Chinese regime on national security.
“Now I want to be clear: We are not compromising or negotiating in matters of national security. Period,” she said. “But this is meant to be a dialogue where we increase transparency and where we are clear about what we are doing as it relates to export-controlled enforcement.
“The United States is committed to be transparent about our export control enforcement strategy. To show you how real this is, the first meeting of that new information exchange is tomorrow in Beijing. We’re wasting no time.”
The United States is moving to restrict investment in China’s sensitive technologies, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors sectors. The order will give the administration a better tool to prohibit U.S. private equity and venture capital from flowing into China and funding the regime to advance its military and intelligence capabilities.
Some House Republicans had voiced concerns about the potential U.S.–China joint working group on export control before Ms. Raimondo visited China.
“U.S. export control policy towards the PRC should not be up for negotiation,” the group of lawmakers, including House China Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), said in an Aug. 18 statement, referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China (PRC). “Decisions on the nature and scope of U.S. export controls should be taken in Washington, not Beijing.”
Outside observers, meanwhile, warned that Beijing’s willingness to engage with the United States isn’t for peaceful cooperation.
Instead, “their intent has been to steal technology, develop its own capabilities, and ultimately control the United States and the rest of the role to the Chinese Communist Party’s growing might,” said Nazak Nikakhtar, a former senior U.S. Commerce Department official, ahead of Ms. Raimondo’s trip.
“When we look back on China’s growth over the past 20 plus years, evidence is down that U.S. tech transfer has enabled the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army, the PLA, to strengthen.”
Feng Chongyi, a China studies professor at the University of Technology Sydney, said that the Chinese regime has no intention to change its actions, such as replacing the current rules-based world order and seizing control of the self-ruled Taiwan.
“As long as Xi Jinping is in power, he will strive to realize his ‘China Dream’ and make himself the leader of the world,” Mr. Feng told The Epoch Times on Aug. 28, as the two commerce chiefs were meeting in Beijing.
“Xi will not make some fundamental concessions to the United States, especially regarding Taiwan. He will not change the goal of seizing Taiwan.”
Luo Ya and Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times