US Commerce Chief Leaves China After ‘Productive’ Talks

Dorothy Li
By Dorothy Li
August 30, 2023China News

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo wrapped up her visit to China on Wednesday, after three days of talks with the regime’s officials that she called “productive.”

“It was for—as I say, three days of productive meetings,” Ms. Raimondo said in a press call on Wednesday afternoon. “And the biggest achievement was just to start regular communication.”

“It’s really important to remember the context here. This is the first time in more than five years that a U.S. Commerce secretary … has come to China to have discussions. So the achievement was to have face-to-face discussions and to put on the table some of the biggest challenges in our trade and investment and our commercial relationship,” she said. “It’s a big step forward.”

Ms. Raimondo is the latest U.S. cabinet official to visit China, following the journey by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s climate envoy.

Bilateral relations keep getting worse over a slew of issues, from the regime’s aggression towards self-ruled Taiwan to the breach of U.S. government emails. Ms. Raimondo’s own email was among the tens of thousands of accounts hacked by China-linked hackers.

“I did mention that my own emails had been hacked” during the meeting with the regime’s officials, Ms. Raimondo said. “I mentioned that as an example of an action that erodes trust at a time that we are trying to stabilize the relationship and increase channels of communication.”

With tensions simmering, the Biden administration is seeking to reopen the high-level communication lines with China. The communist regime in Beijing canceled the interaction with Washington on military, climate, and several other major areas last August, following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. So far, the regime has only agreed to resume the climate talks. The military-to-military hotline remains frozen, despite Mr. Blinken “repeatedly” raising the issues in Beijing.

‘Too Risky’

In a meeting with Shanghai’s Party boss Chen Jining on Wednesday, Ms. Raimondo said it’s important to have “a stable economic relationship” between the United States and China.

“I agree with you that a stable relationship can be a balance for our overall relationship,” Ms. Raimondo said at the start of the meeting. “A stable economic relationship is good for America, good for China, and good for the world.”

The commerce secretary said she looks forward to their conversation to “bring about a more predictable business environment, a predictable regulatory environment, and a level playing field for American businesses here in Shanghai.”

Ms. Raimondo’s comment came as the regime is in need of foreign investment as the world’s second economy is faltering amid a property crisis and record-high youth unemployment.

But several raids and arrests earlier this year have rattled foreign investors. On Tuesday, Ms. Raimondo said that American executives told her China’s business environment had become “too risky.

Gina Raimondo
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (L) talks with Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Jining during a meeting in Shanghai on Aug. 30, 2023. (Andy Wong /Pool/ AFP via Getty Images)

Challenges posed to U.S. firms operating in China are not limited to issues like state subsidies to their Chinese rivals and intellectual property theft. There is a new host of problems such as “exorbitant fines without any explanation” and raids on U.S. firms, Ms. Raimondo said.

What compounds the situation is the vaguely worded anti-espionage law, which went into effect on July 1. The legislation expanded the scope of “espionage activities” to include “documents, data, materials, or items related to national security and interests,” without specifying what falls under national security. Ms. Raimondo said the amendment to the legislation is “unclear and sending shockwaves through the U.S. community.”

“Increasingly I hear from American business that China is uninvestible because it’s become too risky,” Ms. Raimondo told reporters abroad on a high-speed train to Shanghai on Tuesday night.

She said there was “no rationale given” for Chinese actions against chipmaker Micron Technology, whose products were restricted by Beijing earlier this year and rejected any comparisons to U.S. export controls. “There has been limited due process, and that’s why I brought it up.”

According to the Commerce Department, Ms. Raimondo “raised key issues of concern for U.S. businesses and workers, including the level playing field for U.S. companies and workers,” the subsidization of Chinese companies, and “underdeveloped intellectual property protections” during the meeting with China’s Vice Premier He Lifeng on Tuesday.

She also emphasized the U.S. commitment to “ensuring fair and transparent treatment of U.S. companies, and creating a level playing field for U.S. workers and businesses” to China’s Premier Li Qiang, the Commerce Department said.

At a news conference in Shanghai, Raimondo said she had not expected any breakthroughs on issues affecting U.S. firms such as Intel, Micron, Boeing, Visa, and Mastercard in her first meetings with Chinese officials, but did hope to “see some results” in the next few months as a result of her four-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai.

‘Challenges Ahead’

Aside from Mr. Li and Mr. He, the U.S. commerce chief also held talks with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao, and Minister of Culture and Tourism Hu Heping earlier.

“In these meetings, we had candid, constructive conversations,” Ms. Raimondo said Wednesday. “I was able to explain our policies and our approach to China, and I heard from my Chinese counterparts. ”

In the past two days, Ms. Raimondo has said several times about her position: The United States is not seeking to decouple from communist China, but as for national security, there is no room for compromise.

The regime’s officials, however, made it clear that Beijing is unhappy about the U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, export controls, and restrictions on investment, according to China’s Commerce Ministry.

Gina Raimondo
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (C) leaves after a press conference at the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Service Co., in Shanghai, on Aug. 30, 2023. (Andy Wong/Pool/ AFP via Getty Images)

“Overall, as I just said, this trip is an excellent start, but I’m very clear-eyed about the challenges ahead,” Ms. Raimondo said. “In the next few months, we have to get to work to see whether we can make progress on the issues raised.”

On the last day of her China trip, Ms. Raimondo also spoke at a conference for women executives, met students at New York University, and had a quick tour of the Disney park and Boeing facility in Shanghai.


Among the agreements reached during her trip was the creation of two communication channels—the “commercial issues” working group and the “export control enforcement information” dialogue—which she said are important to increase transparency.

But the idea of talking with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on such issues has already drawn criticism from some Republicans.

“The Biden administration’s decision to join forces with the Chinese Communist Party to establish a working group on export controls and commercial issues with CCP officials is at best naive, but also dangerous,” said Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. McCaul pointed to the CCP’s expansive campaign of stealing U.S. intellectual property, which costs Americans up to $600 billion every year, according to an estimation by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property.

“The administration must stop treating the CCP as anything other than an adversary who will stop at nothing to harm our national security and spread its malign authoritarianism around the globe,” Mr. McCaul said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times