Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is the latest member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet to visit China as his administration attempts to mend deteriorating ties between the world’s two largest economies. It promises to be “practical” without jeopardizing the American drive to “responsibly” manage that economic relationship.
Raimondo plans to meet with Chinese officials and U.S. business leaders in Beijing and Shanghai in an effort to “promote healthy competition, a level playing field competition that respects the rules.”
“I am also very realistic and have a clear view of the challenges. And the challenges are significant,” she told reporters before leaving Washington on Saturday for a trip that ends Wednesday.
The secretary said she wants to find “actionable, concrete steps that will help us move forward in the commercial relationship,” but gave few details. One issue that needs to be discussed is promoting Chinese travel and tourism to the United States, with Raimondo pointing to the recent easing of restrictions on large Chinese groups visiting the US.
Raimondo’s visit, like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit in July, is intended to demonstrate the government’s willingness to work with China on economic development at a time of escalating tensions in the area. of foreign policy and national security and while Washington’s alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the European Union.
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken made a two-day stop in Beijing in June, the highest-level meetings in China in the past five years. Blinken met with President Xi Jinping and the two agreed to stabilize US-China ties, but better communication between their armies could not be agreed.
There are also divisions around the economy, especially after the imposition of US foreign investment controls that have plagued countless Chinese companies. China has accused the US of “using the cover of ‘risk reduction’ to carry out ‘decoupling and chain break’,” and has increased its own trade in Asia.
The controls cover advanced computer chips, microelectronics, quantum information technologies and artificial intelligence. The US says the effort stemmed from national security goals, not economic interests, and that the categories covered were deliberately limited.
The US measures are designed to dilute China’s ability to use US investment in its tech companies to upgrade its military, while preserving a broader level of trade vital to both countries. But China’s Commerce Ministry said it has “serious concerns” about Biden’s executive order.
Raimondo said the US was not interested in “constraining China’s economic development.”
“We want the Chinese economy to flourish. We don’t want to contain or hold back China,” she said. “We need to protect our national security, and we’re going to use our export controls to the fullest extent possible to do that.”
She said efforts to boost the US economy by boosting manufacturing, a centerpiece of Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign, “does not mean at all that we want to disengage from the Chinese economy. And I intend to make that very clear in my meetings.”
“The US and China share a great, dynamic, growing economic relationship,” Raimondo said. “And both of our countries — in fact, the entire world — need us to manage that relationship responsibly.”
Raimondo added that she strives for “a stable commercial relationship, the core of which is regular communication.”
“It’s hard to solve problems in any relationship if you don’t communicate. And lack of communication results in rising tensions and spiraling into a bad place,” Raimondo said.
China’s Commerce Ministry said Raimondo’s visit came at the invitation of Minister Wang Wentao. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at Friday’s press conference, when asked about Raimondo’s travels, that “China and the US are in touch on bilateral engagement and exchange.”
Biden said at a recent fundraiser in Utah for his re-election campaign that China was a “ticking time bomb.”
“They have some problems. That’s not good, because when bad people have problems, they do bad things,” the president said, pointing to China’s recent decline in growth rates.
Raimondo said she had spoken with Biden before she left for China and that he had asked her to convey the message that there is “benefit to communicate to ease tensions.”
“That means no compromise,” said Raimondo, who added: “I’m not going to crack down, but I intend to be practical.”
The Commerce Secretary said she spoke to top U.S. union leaders and more than 100 industry executives ahead of her trip, who are eager to do business with China but are “increasingly concerned” about the country’s non-market practices , which complicate competition for global affairs.
“We all know that China has not implemented the promised economic reforms,” Raimondo said. “And it’s clearly committed to the use of non-market-oriented trading and investment practices on an ongoing basis, and that forces us to defend our businesses and employees.”