Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Tim Cook and other big businessmen travel to China despite trade tensions

From Elon Musk to Bill Gates, passing through Apple’s Tim Cook, some of the most prominent businessmen in the United States have recently paraded through China, questioning the catastrophic narrative about a trade war between the two powers.

The visits carried out by some of the richest men in the world They began after the Asian giant ended almost three years of isolation due to the covid at the end of 2022.

In Beijing, US executives expressed optimism about the huge Chinese market and trade relations between the world’s two largest economies.

On his visit to China in late May, Musk, the owner of Tesla and SpaceX, said that the Beijing and Washington’s interests are “intertwined, like conjoined twins, which are inseparable from each other.”

Apple CEO Cook also discussed thea “symbiotic” relationship of its signing with China, which is home to the world’s largest iPhone phone factory.

But the greatest honor of all, a meeting with Xi Jinping, was received by Bill Gates, whom the Chinese president celebrated on Friday as an “old friend,” according to the state-run People’s Daily.

These visits coincide with an increase in trade tensions between the two powers which, in any case, did not prevent it from breaking a record in the value of its exchanges, of 690,600 million dollars last year, according to the US Department of Commerce.

Still, the business world is concerned about the slowdown in US exports to China, its third largest trading partner, especially in the technology industry.

Citing national security issues, The United States blocked exports to China of the most advanced semiconductors and the material necessary to produce them in 2022.

China responded by vowing to speed up its efforts to become autonomous in this industry.

“China-US trade (…) was previously mutually dependent and beneficial,” analysts at the Peterson Institute for International Economics said in a recent report.

“US exports to China are one more channel through which the bilateral relationship continues to deteriorate,” they added.

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The US government is embroiled in fierce disputes with China over issues such as Taiwan and human rights, and these do not appear to be settling down despite Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing this weekend.

US companies in China have long spearheaded calls for rapprochement, arguing that a strong economic relationship could foster political reform.

The visits of these tycoons also They demonstrate the implantation of the great world firms in China despite the political tensions.

However, increasing repression under Xi’s presidency has turned once-influential business lobbies into “a minority voice,” said Joe Mazur, an analyst at Trivium.

“The business community is one of the last pieces of counterweight that stabilizes the US-China relationship,” he says.

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This business circle in China will closely follow Blinken’s visit this weekend, which analysts say is unlikely to reduce the confrontation.

“American businesses have substantial investments, thousands of employees and still see China as a promising market,” James Zimmerman, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, told AFP.

But the governments of both countries “have hollowed out any level of collaboration and there is little room to develop even the pretense of goodwill,” he added.

The US-China Business Council, the classic interlocutor between Beijing and Washington, feels that it has been left in the lurch, with no ability to influence an increasingly aggressive Congress that has not listened to its requests against more trade restrictions.

“They have to advocate continued rapprochement with China when the view in Washington is that the time for rapprochement has passed,” Mazur said.

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But Beijing’s recent moves to restrict foreigners’ access to the internet and operations at consulting firms’ offices have also spooked foreign companies, among whom there is growing sentiment that operating in China is not worth the risk.

“There is a change in sentiment,” says Claire Chu, a China analyst at defense intelligence firm Janes. Many firms “may be thinking that even if they don’t go away, they need to start thinking about it.”

“Early morning raids with inadequate procedure and indefinite detention of workers without access to legal counsel have become the norm for both Chinese and foreign companies,” Zimmerman said.

Some big manufacturers are rebalancing their dependence on China. For example, Apple and Tesla are looking to move part of the production to another country.

“In the same way that people ten years ago said you had to be in China to be relevant, now relevance will depend on a strategic exercise in offshoring,” Zimmerman said.

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Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Tim Cook and other big businessmen travel to China despite trade tensions