US commerce secretary urges American companies to continue to expand China operations

Gina Raimondo comments come a day after she said businesses believed the country had become ‘uninvestable’

United States commerce secretary Gina Raimondo has urged American companies to continue to expand their operations in China, a day after she said businesses believed the country had become “uninvestable”. Ms Raimondo said she wanted companies to stay in China despite new challenges including exorbitant, unexplained fines, raids on businesses and a new counter-espionage law.

“The message is to continue to do what you’re doing. We want you here investing, growing,” she told an American Chamber of Commerce event in Shanghai.

The commerce secretary, whose visit to China follows those by secretary of state Anthony Blinken and treasury secretary Janet Yellen, described her meetings with Premier Li Qiang, Vice Premier He Lifeng and commerce minister Wang Wentao as productive. The two sides agreed to establish a regular dialogue on trade issues, including the export bans they have imposed on one another.

“The achievement was to have face-to-face discussion and to put on the table some of the biggest challenges in our trade and investment and our commercial relationship,” Ms Raimondo said.


“It was a big step forward. We can’t solve any problems without first communicating. Now we have to launch these mechanisms and see what problems we might be able to solve.”

Britain’s foreign minister James Cleverly also spoke of the importance of keeping open channels of communication during a visit to Beijing on Wednesday. It was the first visit to China by a senior British minister since Jeremy Hunt visited as foreign minister in 2018.

Since then, Britain’s relationship with China has deteriorated and a post-Brexit integrated review of Britain’s foreign and defence policy in 2021 called for a “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific. Under Liz Truss, the Conservative government was set to classify China as a threat to Britain’s national security but Rishi Sunak has adopted a more moderate position.

“It is an important country, it’s a large country, an influential country, and a complicated country, and therefore our relationship with China will necessarily be just as complicated and sophisticated,” Mr Cleverly said.

“We are clear-eyed about the areas where we have fundamental disagreements with China and we raise those issues when we meet . . . But I think it’s important to also recognise that we have to have a pragmatic, sensible working relationship with China because of the issues that affect us all around the globe.”

Speaking about the importance of high-level contacts, Mr Cleverly hinted that Mr Sunak and China’s president Xi Jinping may meet bilaterally on the margins of next month’s G20 summit in India. The foreign secretary’s visit to Beijing coincided with the publication of a report by the House of Commons foreign affairs committee which described Taiwan as an independent country.

“Taiwan is already an independent country, under the name Republic of China,” it said.

“Taiwan possesses all the qualifications for statehood, including a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states – it is only lacking greater international recognition.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed the reference to Taiwanese independence as a “totally misleading” distortion of the facts.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. The one-China principle is a universally recognised norm in international relations and the political foundation of China-UK relations,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times