Xi Jinping of China Calls for Openness Amid Strained Ties With U.S.

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Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, called for cooperation and openness to an audience of business and financial leaders on Tuesday. He also had some warnings, presumably for the United States.

Speaking electronically to a largely virtual audience at China’s annual Boao Forum, Mr. Xi warned that the world should not allow “unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world.”

The audience included American business leaders including Tim Cook of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla, as well as two Wall Street financiers, Ray Dalio and Stephen Schwarzman. Long a platform for China to show off its economic prowess and leadership, the Boao Forum is held annually on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. (Last year’s was canceled amid the pandemic.)

In recent years, Mr. Xi has used the forum to portray himself as an advocate of free trade and globalization, calling for openness even as many in the global business community have become increasingly vocal about growing restrictions in China’s own domestic market.

On Tuesday, he also reiterated his earlier message opposing efforts by countries to weaken their economic interdependence with China.

“Attempts to ‘erect walls’ or ‘decouple’” would “hurt others’ interests without benefiting oneself,” Mr. Xi said, in what appeared to be a reference to the United States and the Biden administration’s plans to support domestic high-tech manufacturing in the United States.

The White House held a meeting with business executives last week to discuss a global chip shortage and plan for semiconductor “supply chain resilience.” Speaking to executives from Google, Intel and Samsung, Mr. Biden said “China and the rest of the world is not waiting, and there’s no reason why Americans should wait.”

China is pursuing its own program for self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing.

Mr. Xi also pledged to continue to open the Chinese economy for foreign businesses, a promise that big Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have clung to even as foreign executives complain that the broader business landscape has become more challenging.

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