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President Xi Jinping talks business in Seattle

Kai Ryssdal, Rob Schmitz, and Mukta Mohan Sep 22, 2015
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The president of the world’s second-biggest economy arrived to the world’s biggest economy today. China’s Xi Jinping made Seattle his first stop of a seven-day state visit. He’ll meet President Obama later in the week. Over the next couple of days, Xi will meet with the CEOs of America’s largest companies, highlighting the important economic ties between the two countries. Marketplace China correspondent Rob Schmitz explains the visit.

On the perspective of American businesses:

Gone are the days when China’s government actively courted U.S. companies to set up shop here in China. You know, these days there are all sorts of challenges for U.S. companies doing business here. You have China’s government putting more weight behind domestic companies creating what many think is an unfair playing field. You’ve got more demands from local partners to transfer technology and intellectual property to Chinese properties. And now, Xi Jinping’s government is requiring U.S. tech companies what it calls “a pledge of compliance” to continue to do business here in China. That will require companies like Apple to hand over user data and even some intellectual property to the Chinese. So, on the one hand, U.S. companies are making more than they’ve ever made here in China, but the cost of doing business in China has never been so high.

On President Xi Jinping going to Seattle to talk to businesses:

These companies are making so much money in China that it makes it difficult for them to be candid at events like this. For example, just six years ago, Apple made only 2 percent of its revenue inside of China. Today, the company makes a quarter of all its revenue there — $46 billion so far this year. So talking about obstacles to doing business in China is difficult when these companies are making more than they’ve ever made here. Most people I’ve spoken to, while they’re pleased that foreign companies are making bigger profits in China, they don’t have much hope that it’ll become any easier for American companies to do business in China anytime soon.

On how what the state media is saying about this trip:

Of course the state media is gushing over this trip, saying that this is going to be an opportunity for Xi Jinping to show the United States that China is an equal, not only economically but militarily. I think for Xi Jinping, he’s been able to attract a very big group of heads of companies to come to one of his first events in the first city that he arrives to, to show his own countrymen that “look, we’re important. These companies consider us a very important market, and we’re crucial for their business.”

On how normal every day Chinese people feel about this trip:

 I think for the most part, normal everyday Chinese aren’t going to be paying too much attention to this visit. You know, politics is largely a separate thing that many people don’t see as part of their own lives. But here’s the thing: You’ve got these products that American companies make. They do connect with that. You’ve got more and more people who are buying Apple products and other American products. I think that when we see the coverage on state media, and we’re going to see a lot of it in the coming days, I think that they will connect with that kind of thing.

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