The US Secretary of Commerce says United States companies have complained that China has become “uninvestable”, pointing to fines, raids and other measures that have made it risky to do business there.
Gina Raimondo’s comments came on Tuesday as her delegation of American officials headed from Beijing to Shanghai in the latest visit by a top US government representative to China in recent months.
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“Increasingly I hear from American business that China is uninvestable because it’s become too risky,” she said.
For his part, Chinese Premier Li Qiang warned during a meeting with US officials on Tuesday against “politicised” US trade curbs on China, which Washington has insisted are necessary for its national security. Beijing has said the measures are meant to dampen its economic rise.
The statements by Li and Raimondo underscored the continued challenges the US and China face in navigating their complex relationship, even as they have recently sought to lower tensions and manage competition.
Ties between Beijing and Washington have soured over a range of issues, from trade and the status of Taiwan to China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and an ongoing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Raimondo is the fourth senior official from US President Joe Biden’s administration to visit China this year, following Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
On Tuesday, Raimondo said US firms are facing new challenges, including “exorbitant fines without any explanation, revisions to the counterespionage law, which are unclear and sending shock waves through the US community, [and] raids on businesses”.
That has presented “a whole new level of challenge and we need that to be addressed”, she said.
She added there had been “no rationale given” for Chinese actions against chipmaker Micron Technology, whose products were restricted by Beijing earlier this year. “There has been limited due process, and that’s why I brought it up.”
The US Department of Commerce said Raimondo had raised the concerns during meetings with Chinese officials while in Beijing. “All of that creates uncertainty and unpredictability,” she said.
Meanwhile, during an earlier meeting with Raimondo, Li urged Washington to change course on a series of rules put forth by the Biden administration that would restrict certain US investments in sensitive high-tech areas in China.
“Politicising economic and trade issues and overstretching the concept of security will … seriously affect bilateral relations and mutual trust,” Li told Raimondo, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
They “also undermine the interests of enterprises and people of the two countries, and will have a disastrous impact on the global economy”, he said.
$700bn commercial relationship
While US-China ties have been tested in recent months, the two countries have said they want to manage competition and avoid slipping towards a “new Cold War”.
Both sides have more recently expressed the desire to boost communication – particularly on economic and defence issues – amid fears an unintended incident could lead to a larger escalation.
During her meeting with Li on Tuesday, Raimondo “reaffirmed her commitment to open channels of communication”, according to a readout from the US Department of Commerce.
“We seek to maintain our $700bn commercial relationship with China, and we hope that that relationship can provide stability for the overall relationship,” she told reporters during the meeting with Li.
Raimondo also met with China’s vice premier, He Lifeng, and Commerce Minister Wang Wentao.
During the meeting with Wang, US officials said the pair had agreed to set up an “export control enforcement information exchange”, which they described as a platform to “reduce misunderstanding of US national security policies”.
Still, Beijing’s commerce ministry said Wang, like Li, also warned against US trade curbs on some technologies, telling Raimondo they “run counter to market rules and the principle of fair competition, and will only harm the security and stability of the global industrial and supply chains”.