Leading US entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Tim Cook, have recently visited China, defying the narrative of a catastrophic trade war between the two powers. These visits come after China has overcome nearly three years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During their visits, the US executives expressed optimism about the Chinese market and trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.
Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and SpaceX, highlighted the interdependence of Beijing and Washington’s interests, referring to them as inseparable. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, also mentioned his company’s symbiotic relationship with China, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory. Bill Gates had the honor of meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and was celebrated as an old friend.
Although trade tensions between the US and China have escalated, trade relations between the two nations reached a record high in the value of their exchanges last year, reaching $690.6 billion, according to the US Department of Commerce. However, there is concern about the slowdown in US exports to China, especially in the technology industry.
The US blocked exports of the most advanced semiconductors and the materials needed to produce them by 2022, citing national security concerns. China, for its part, vowed to accelerate its efforts to become autonomous in this industry. Analysts note that US exports to China have become a channel through which the bilateral relationship is deteriorating.
Despite political tensions, major global companies continue to set up shop in China. However, increasing repression under Xi Jinping’s leadership has weakened the influence of business groups as a counterweight in the US-China relationship.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China this weekend is not expected to reduce the confrontation. US companies have made significant investments in China and still see the Chinese market as promising, but the lack of collaboration between the governments has raised questions about whether China is worth operating in.
Some manufacturers, such as Apple and Tesla, are diversifying their dependence on China and moving some of their production to other countries. Foreign companies are also concerned about China’s restrictions on Internet access and business operations.
In short, visits by well-known US businessmen to China challenge the narrative of a trade war and underscore the importance of the Chinese market. However, political tensions and concerns about repression in China pose long-term challenges for foreign companies operating in the country.