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Xi Jinping to Address American Business Leaders Amid Increasing Doubts about China Relations

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is slated to hold talks with President Biden in San Francisco next week, is expected to engage with top American business leaders during a dinner following their bilateral meeting.

Mr. Xi’s visit to the United States coincides with a challenging period in U.S.-China relations. The United States has expressed mounting concerns regarding China’s military objectives and has been pursuing measures to restrict Beijing’s access to technology that could potentially be employed against the United States. The treatment of Western companies in China, marked by stricter operational limitations, has led firms to question the wisdom of further investments in the country.

Nevertheless, leaders from both China and the United States have expressed their interest in strengthening the economic ties between the world’s two largest economies, deeply interconnected through trade. The Biden administration has dispatched several high-ranking officials to China this year to convey that while the United States prioritizes national security, it does not seek to sever economic connections with China.

Despite these efforts, it remains uncertain whether Mr. Xi’s visit will alleviate the skepticism of foreign businesses. Several are discouraged by China’s slowing economic growth and the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly firm control over business activities under Mr. Xi. Invitations for the dinner and reception, hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council, are priced at $2,000 each, as per an online invitation. Companies, for $40,000, can secure eight seats at a table along with one seat at Mr. Xi’s table, an insider familiar with the event revealed.

Engagements between Chinese officials and the U.S. business sector aim to signal that China remains an attractive place for business. According to Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Beijing desires this for “tactical reasons” but does not necessarily foresee a reset or recalibration of the broader relationship.

Foreign companies are particularly troubled by Chinese regulations that hinder them from selling to the government or entering specific markets. They are also concerned about a counter-espionage law that may lead to legal repercussions for company executives and researchers dealing in sensitive industries. Simultaneously, the United States is intensifying restrictions on investments and advanced technology sales to China, citing national security concerns.

Although many businesses still view China as an indispensable market, an increasing number are exploring alternative destinations for their investments. A survey conducted by the U.S.-China Business Council this year revealed that 34 percent of its members had either halted or reduced their planned investments in China over the past year, a higher percentage compared to previous years.

Mr. Blanchette opined that Chinese officials will view the meeting as an opportunity to influence U.S. technology controls placed on China, but he does not anticipate a change in the U.S. position. “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,” he said.

Mr. Xi’s visit will mark his first trip to the United States since 2017 when he met with former President Donald J. Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Since then, U.S.-China business relations have undergone substantial changes, marked by a trade war, disputes over advanced technology and geopolitical influence, and a notable increase in authoritarianism in China under Mr. Xi.

In recent weeks, high-level Chinese officials have held discussions with their U.S. counterparts to lay the groundwork for Mr. Xi’s visit. The organizers of the C.E.O. summit announced in a news release that both Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi would be attending the two-day summit, alongside other global leaders and the chief executives of companies such as Microsoft, Mastercard, and Pfizer.

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