High-Stakes Diplomacy: US Commerce Secretary Arrives in China Amid Escalating Rivalry

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo arrived in China on Sunday evening, undertaking a visit to the world’s second-largest economy as part of the ongoing efforts to manage the intensifying rivalry between the two nations.

Raimondo’s trip marks the fourth occasion in recent months that a senior American official has visited China, signaling the two nations’ efforts to prevent tensions from escalating further. Key issues on the agenda are likely to include discussions about market access and anti-espionage laws.

Additionally, there is the possibility that Beijing will raise concerns regarding restrictions on the sale of products to its semiconductor firms.

This marks Raimondo’s inaugural trip to China, as stated in the report. She becomes the fourth prominent American official to journey to China in recent months, following John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate change, Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, and Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State.

Upon her arrival at the airport, Raimondo was welcomed by Lin Feng, the director of the Ministry of Commerce’s American and Oceania affairs department, as reported by state broadcaster CCTV.

During her stay in China, Raimondo is anticipated to engage with Chinese officials and business leaders in both Beijing and Shanghai. Her discussions are expected to encompass a spectrum of subjects, including matters such as market access, investigations into US consultancy firms, China’s prohibition on the sale of products from Micron Technology, a memory chip company, data security, and Beijing’s anti-espionage legislation.

Simultaneously, Beijing is projected to advocate for the relaxation of US restrictions on the trade of chips, software, and machinery to China’s semiconductor industry.

At the recent BRICS summit in South Africa, Wang Wentao, Raimondo’s Chinese counterpart, conveyed a prepared statement on behalf of Xi Jinping. This statement criticized the United States for its inclination toward “hegemony,” particularly noteworthy as Xi Jinping unexpectedly skipped a business forum at the summit.

Ahead of Raimondo’s visit, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Shu Jueting remarked that Beijing would articulate its stance on certain impending trade matters during her visit.

On the final day of her four-day journey to China, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo toured Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services, New York University Shanghai, and also visited Disneyland.

“The achievement was to have face-to-face discussion and to put on the table some of the biggest challenges in our trade and investment and our commercial relationship.

“It was a big step forward. We can’t solve any problems without first communicating. Now we have to launch these mechanisms and see what problems we might be able to solve.”

She maintained a firm stance on matters of national security, which has restricted China’s access to advanced technology. During her visit, she also expressed concerns to Chinese officials about subsidies, raids on US consultancy firms, an absence of a level playing field, and intellectual property theft.

Raimondo emphasized,

“When it comes to safeguarding America’s national security, including identifying emerging technology, there is no room for negotiation.”

Earlier this year, Chinese authorities conducted raids on the Beijing office of American due diligence firm Mintz Group and the Shanghai office of US consulting giant Bain & Company, citing national security reasons. This action heightened concerns within the foreign business community.

According to Raimondo, both sides agreed to facilitate further discussions and find ways to safeguard trade secrets and intellectual property. She stated, “I encountered no resistance, and the same applies to the exchange of information regarding export control enforcement.”

“US companies are eager to conduct business in China, but they require a consistent regulatory environment,” she emphasized.

During a meeting with Shanghai Communist Party secretary Chen Jining on Wednesday, as reported by the US Commerce Department, Raimondo urged China to “promote transparency and the equitable application of laws and regulations to ensure stability and predictability in the business environment for the US and other investors.”

Of course, a different kind of conversation took place behind the scenes, i.e. not to rattle the cage too much by further reducing US treasury bond holdings, especially during this electoral campaign season, in exchange for some perks.

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