U.S. Business Leaders Dine with Chinese President Xi on APEC Sidelines

U.S. Business Leaders Dine with Chinese President Xi on APEC Sidelines
The Hyatt Regency in San Francisco's financial district, where business leaders dined with President Xi. Photo: hakanyalicn via Shutterstock

The Lede: On Wednesday after the highly anticipated meeting between the presidents of the U.S. and China on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, members of the U.S. business community attended a banquet headlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

What We Know:

  • Held at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco’s financial district, the event was hosted by the National Committee on U.S. China Relations (NCUSCR) and the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC), and co-sponsored by the Asia Society, Council on Foreign Relations and the US Chamber of Commerce. A ticket to the event cost $2,000 while a table of eight plus one seat at Xi’s table reportedly cost up to $40,000. U.S. lawmakers have accused those who attended the dinner of ignoring China’s human rights record.
  • Attendees included Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple; Larry Fink of BlackRock; Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce; Ray Dalio, co-president of Bridgewater Associates; and Jerry Brown, the former governor of California. Executives from Boeing, Pfizer, Nike, and FedEx were among other names. Elon Musk appeared during the cocktail hour to greet Xi, but left before the start of the dinner. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also attended and spoke at the event.

The Background: China has been struggling to stem the outflow of foreign capital from the country in recent months. U.S. firms have become increasingly skeptical of investing in China, which is seen as risky in the current environment. This is due in large part to the geopolitics of the economic competition between the U.S. and China as well as increased regulatory scrutiny in the country that has seen raids and crackdowns by Chinese authorities on offices of foreign firms. The Biden administration has been trying to curb the transfer of technologies in the semiconductor, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence sectors. China has responded with curbs on the export of critical minerals.  

Likely Outcomes:

  • This event has set a similar cordial tone among U.S. business leaders that the various meetings and visits by high-level Chinese and U.S. officials have achieved in the diplomatic space. While no tangible progress has been concluded through this interaction, the positive intent expressed by Xi and Secretary Raimondo signal that the leadership of the two countries have the desire to steer relations into a more favorable direction for their respective business interests. The star-studded guest list shows that some of the most high-profile U.S. firms are looking for signs of a thaw in U.S.-China trade relations.  
  • While the Biden administration has been building toward increased communication and dialogue with Chinese officials, and U.S. business interests are testing the winds for operations in China, there are elements in the U.S. government such as the House Select Committee on China that are likely to keep up efforts to thwart dovish sentiments toward Beijing. This may come in the form of increased scrutiny of U.S. firms doing business in China, especially as it pertains to sensitive and relevant industries that the U.S. is actively in competition with China over. 


“If we regard each other as the biggest rival, the most significant geopolitical challenge and an ever-pressing threat, it will inevitably lead to wrong policies, wrong actions and wrong results. China has never bet on the United States to lose, has never intervened in US internal affairs and does not intend to challenge or replace the US. China is happy to see a confident, open and prosperous US.” - Xi Jinping, president of China

“Both sides have decided right now to tap the brakes and try to inject a degree of stability into what is otherwise a deteriorating situation.” - Evan Medeiros, professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

“We all know that we have differences. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. That being said, President Biden has been very clear that while we compete with China and other countries, we do not seek conflict and we do not seek confrontation. We want robust trade with China.” - Gina Raimondo, U.S. Commerce Secretary

'It is unconscionable that American companies might pay thousands of dollars to join a "welcome dinner" hosted by the very same [Chinese Communist Party] officials who have facilitated a genocide against millions of innocent men, women, and children in Xinjiang.” - Mike Gallagher, Republican Representative from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party

Good Reads:

Pandas, Ping-Pong and Profits: Chinese Leader Woos U.S. C.E.O.s (NYT)

China is willing to be a ‘partner and friend’ of the US, Xi tells American CEOs (CNN)

U.S. CEOs line up to woo China’s Xi at APEC (LA Times)

Gallagher: 'Unconscionable that American Companies Pay Thousands for Dinner with Xi' (Select Committee on the CCP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping offers cooperation, reassurance during US business dinner with detente on the menu (SCMP)