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Does Xi Jinping's U.S. trip suggest the 2 countries will strengthen business ties?


Chinese President Xi Jinping's appearance at this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco attracted executives from Apple, Boeing, Pfizer and Nike, among other major U.S. firms. The guest list alone suggested that the tensions in U.S.-China relations have not soured American companies on doing business there. And while China is still the world's second-largest economy, growth there is slowing down. So did Xi's trip to San Francisco suggests that the two countries are ready to strengthen their business ties? We called Zongyuan Zoe Liu to talk about that. She is a fellow in China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and she's written about the Chinese economy. Good morning.

ZONGYUAN ZOE LIU: Good morning.

MARTIN: So, Zoe, what should we take from Xi's appearance at APEC from an economic standpoint?

LIU: You know, economically, when Xi Jinping came into this meeting, the Chinese economic situation and growth momentum is in a significantly weaker position compared with a year ago and is a weaker position compared with that of the United States. So from that perspective, especially the guest list, it shows that he perhaps recognized the cost of a deteriorating U.S.-China relationship on China's growth.

MARTIN: So China's economy never quite bounced back from COVID. Is it fair to say that the country needs American investment more urgently now?

LIU: I would say so. And remember this - the rise of the Chinese economic growth over the past 20 and 30 decades - yes, you know, we remember the story of double-digit growth, but a lot of this double digit growth come with confidence and especially confidence of American companies in the Chinese market. And coming with America's investment, the capital - there is also the expertise and the connections. So from that perspective, right now at this moment, when the Chinese economic growth need international confidence, as well as domestic confidence, it is fair to say that China needs America's capital and investment.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about that growth slowdown. The U.S. has imposed tough trade restrictions on China for national security reasons, according to the Commerce Department. Did those restrictions contribute to China's growth slowdown, or has that been driven more by Xi's policies?

LIU: That's an excellent question. I would say that - so my framework of understanding China's economic slowdown is through the length of 4 D's, including debt, demand, demographics, and then the final one would be decoupling or derisking. So yes, the export controls, investment screening or a lot of these things are happening in the sphere of derisking - certainly contributed to the Chinese economic lack of recovering momentum. But fundamentally, a lot of the problems are deeper in the Chinese economic growth model.

MARTIN: Thanks. So before we let you go, you know, the U.S. is entering an election season. We can expect to hear a lot of anti-China rhetoric. Candidates on both sides are talking about being tough on China. Do you think - or how do you think that could affect the two countries' relationship going forward?

LIU: You know, election year, especially the politics on - the narratives on China has always not necessarily been helpful for the grand scheme of narratives on U.S.-China relationship. But I think, you know, Chinese politicians navigated through several cycles of U.S. elections. So I don't necessarily think this is going to be significantly deteriorating the U.S.-China relationship. They've dealt with this before.

MARTIN: That's Zongyuan Zoe Liu of the Council on Foreign Relations. Zoe, thanks so much for your insights.

LIU: Yeah, thank you very much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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