Of all the economic rifts between the U.S. and China, U.S. executives have described what they personally perceive as the difficult, even hostile, conditions they face doing business in China.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen expressed those concerns in Beijing on Friday, expressing strong opposition to the Chinese government’s punitive measures against foreign companies.
Surrounded by executives of some powerful American companies, Mrs. Yellen criticized the Chinese government’s crackdown on companies with foreign ties and its recent decision to impose export restrictions on some key minerals. Such actions, he suggested, vindicated the Biden administration’s efforts to make American manufacturers less dependent on China.
Ms. Yellen’s comments underscore the challenges facing the world’s two largest economies as they struggle to reconcile their deep differences.
He offered a strong defense of American industry in his first day of meetings in Beijing during a high-stakes trip to ease tensions between the United States and China. It was the first visit to China by a Treasury secretary in four years, and Ms. Yellen expressed her objections to top Chinese officials, including Premier Li Keqiang.
“During meetings with my colleagues, I communicate the concerns I hear from the American business community — including China’s use of non-market instruments such as expanded subsidies and barriers to market access for state-owned and domestic enterprises. foreign companies,” Ms. Yellen said at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
“I am deeply troubled by the punitive actions taken against US companies in recent months,” he added. Representatives from Boeing, Bank of America and agricultural giant Cargill were in attendance.
In March, Chinese authorities detained and closed a branch of five Chinese nationals working in Beijing for Mintz Group, an American consulting firm with 18 offices around the world. The following month, authorities questioned employees at the Shanghai office of American management consulting firm Bain & Company.
The scrutiny of U.S. businesses operating in China follows restrictions imposed by the Biden administration on China’s access to critical semiconductor manufacturing technology and equipment.
The Biden administration is preparing additional restrictions on U.S. technology trade with China, including potential limits on advanced chips and U.S. investment in the country. The administration is preparing to limit China’s use of advanced artificial intelligence chips and restrict Chinese companies’ access to US cloud computing services.
The tit-for-tat continued this week when Beijing retaliated against the Biden administration’s limits on semiconductors, announcing that it would restrict exports of some critical minerals used in the production of some chips. Ms Yellen said on Friday that she was “concerned” by China’s export restrictions and that further responses from the United States may be forthcoming.
Chinese companies are also feeling the chill of mistrust in the US and have been unsettled by recent actions, including congressional investigations into Chinese-owned social media network TikTok, where lawmakers spent five hours blasting the platform’s ties to China. The Biden administration has told TikTok that ByteDance, the Chinese owners of ByteDance, must sell the app or face a ban in the US.
According to Wang Yong, director of the Center for American Studies at Peking University, deepening U.S. restrictions on Chinese investments and corporate deals have also disrupted Chinese businesses, including in once-brilliant sectors such as purchasing farmland.
“Unfortunately, these mutually beneficial relationships have now become politicized, insecure and demonized – perceived as having an impact on national security,” Professor Wang said. “But while I personally call it a strategic rivalry between China and the United States, they still have many common interests.”
An official from China’s Ministry of Finance said on Friday that Ms. He expressed hope that the meetings with Yellen would improve economic ties and suggested that the United States should take steps to do so. The official added that both countries do not benefit from the “disconnection” and disruption of supply chains.
Long-time observers of the relationship between the two countries were skeptical about the prospects for rapid progress.
Shi Yinhong, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said Ms. Yellen’s visit could not be expected to “really significantly reduce” the many and wide differences between the two countries. But given those differences, he said, Chinese officials are unlikely to be surprised by Ms. Yellen’s comments in support of American businesses in China.
“I suspect there will be high expectations on the Chinese side,” he said.
US businesses are spooked by China’s ever-tightening national security laws, which include a tough counter-espionage law that took effect on Saturday. The US State Department issued a warning this week advising Americans to reconsider traveling to China because of the possibility of false detention.
Michael Hart, president of the Chamber of Commerce in China, said that American companies are trying to play a constructive role in the economic relationship between the United States and China.
“No matter what happens at the political level, we are trying to find common ground with our Chinese counterparts by working, producing, manufacturing, buying, selling, paying taxes and doing everything in a way that reflects our values,” said Mr Hart, who sat next to Ms Yellen.
The Treasury secretary plans to raise these issues during meetings with top Chinese officials over the next two days.
Ms Yellen also met with China’s former vice-premier Liu He and Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, on Friday. A Treasury Department official said Ms. Yellen discussed the outlook for the economy in an informal meeting with her former colleagues that lasted more than an hour.
Later on Friday afternoon, at the Great Hall of the People, which sits on the edge of Tiananmen Square, he met Mr. met Li.
China’s no. 2 Chairman Mr. Prior to the meeting with Li, Ms. Yellen stressed the importance of “healthy competition” between the two countries. He also emphasized that the steps taken by the US on the basis of national security should not be misconstrued. Attacks on China
“The United States must, in certain circumstances, pursue targeted actions to protect its national security,” Ms. Yellen said. “We may disagree on these events.”
He added: “However, any disagreement would lead to misunderstandings that would unnecessarily worsen our bilateral economic and financial relationship.
Mrs. Sitting next to Yellen, Mr. Li noted that the world had high expectations for their meeting.
Prime Minister who gave a ray of hope, Smt. When Yellen arrived in Beijing, she was photographed pointing to a rainbow in the sky and noted that it was a sign that relations between China and the United States could improve.
“I look forward to this opportunity to exchange ideas with you,” said Mr. Li said through an interpreter.
According to the Treasury official, the meeting lasted for more than an hour, twice as long as planned. Both sides struck a positive tone in summaries of their discussions.
America described it as “honest and constructive” with an emphasis on close communication. China’s state television service CCTV gave a more upbeat assessment of the meeting, in contrast to recent Chinese official statements about the United States.
“Strengthening cooperation is a realistic demand and right choice for China and the United States,” said Mr. Lee’s comments were summarized by CCTV.
Claire Fu And Christopher Buckley Contributed report.