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Top American CEOs Are Quietly Jet Setting To China To Reforge Business Ties As US Relations Sour

  • Some of America’s top CEOs have traveled to China recently, emphasizing the need for cooperation between the countries and engaging with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials on secret trips. 
  • The CEOs have been mostly tight-lipped when discussing their trips due to strain between the nations related to trade and national security, but they stressed the need for cooperation. 
  • “The interests of the United States and China are intertwined like conjoined twins,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Tesla CEO Elon Musk as saying after a meeting.

Prominent U.S. CEOs recently made discreet trips to China where they all met with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials or connected individuals.

American executives such as JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser went to China to highlight the importance of fostering collaboration between the two nations and meet with CCP officials, according to media reports. They have been relatively quiet in terms of public disclosure due to tension between the countries, according to senior staff at chambers of commerce and trade associations who spoke to Reuters.

Reasons for the strained relations include the U.S. imposition of export limits on chips from China and data security risks to Americans like those related to TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, according to Reuters. Additionally, Beijing revised and expanded a counterespionage law in April, which has already led to raids on American companies operating in China, according to the New York Times. 

Further, China has promised to invade Taiwan and analysts are concerned that could lead to a war between the U.S. and China, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. China has not ruled out using military action to take over Taiwan and the U.S. has not ruled out defending Taiwan against such an attack.

Yet the CEOs all met with CCP members or individuals linked to the CCP. Three of them met with CCP Committee Secretary of Shanghai Chen Jining, Musk met with China’s foreign, commerce and industry ministers, Schwarzman met with Chairman of China Investment Corporation (CIC) PENG Chun and Fraser met with Director of China’s National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA) Li Yunze.

Dimon traveled to China for a JPMorgan Global China Summit in Shanghai in May, according to Reuters. He met and shook hands with Jining the day before the conference started, and the company declined to discuss what they spoke about saying it was a “private” meeting, according to The Financial Times.

Dimon spoke about decoupling between the United States and China at the summit, Reuters reported.

“Let’s not try to decouple. Let’s not try to hurt China, the Chinese people,” he said, adding that he liked that President Joe Biden’s administration “have been talking about derisking.”

“You’re not going to fix these things if you are just sitting across the Pacific yelling at each other,” Dimon said. “So I’m hoping we have real engagement.”

It was Dimon’s first trip to China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and since he made a joke about JPMorgan outlasting the Chinese Communist Party, according to Reuters.

Musk traveled to Beijing for the first time in three years in May, according to Reuters. Like Dimon, he met and shook hands with Jining, who welcomed Tesla and encouraged the company to increase its development in Shanghai, accordingto the South China Morning Post.

“The interests of the United States and China are intertwined like conjoined twins,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Musk as saying, according to CNN Business.

Musk then left for Shanghai, where Tesla has a factory that manufactured more than 700,000 Model Y and Model 3 cars in 2022, which was over 50% of the company’s worldwide production, according to Reuters.

“It’s been incredibly impressive how you have been able to overcome so many difficulties and so many challenges,” Musk told staff at the factory, according to CNBC. “I tell people throughout the world, the cars we produce here are not just the most efficient production, but also the highest quality.”

Musk did not make any public statements while in China, according to Reuters. China banned Twitter throughout the country, and while Musk’s account posted two retweets, he did not tweet anything, himself.

Cook traveled to China in March for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to The Financial Times. Cook also met with Jining on his recent trip, according to China news outlet SHINE.

“We could not be more excited,” Cook said at the China Development Forum in Beijing, according to the Financial Times. “Apple and China . . . grew together and so this has been a symbiotic kind of relationship.”

He also said that the company has “a very large supply chain operation in China and then of course we also have our . . . Apple stores.”

Apple restricted the AirDrop feature for iPhones sold in China in a Nov. 9 software update. Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong had used it to share messages that escaped China’s internet restrictions during protests in 2019, Quartz, a business outlet, reported.

Schwarzman met with Chun, who chairs CIC, a sovereign wealth fund established by the CCP, during his March trip and they discussed various topics such as collaboration between their organizations, the state of the global economy and market and important investment areas, according to a CIC press release. Both parties committed to enhancing communication and cooperation.

Schwarzman is linked to several individuals connected to the CCP and has spent time with people like Antony Leung, who ran Blackstone’s Hong Kong office, which opened in 2007, according to Blackstone. Before that, Leung served as the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong from 2001 to 2003 and reported to Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa, an individual “clearly associated with the United Front,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The United Front is a political technique of the CCP, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Schwarzman stated when he first met with Chinese President Xi Jinping — CCP general secretary at the time — his partner Leung was with him, according to an interview in The New Yorker. Additionally, Leung assisted him in garnering $3 billion from CIC for Blackstone’s June 2007 initial public offering (IPO), according to the Wall Street Journal.

Blackstone was planning a $4 billion IPO at the time, but raised it to $7 billion as a result, Schwarzman told The Economic Times in 2020.

“It was for the first time China had bought an equity interest in a public company outside of China, since modern China was established in 1949,” he said.

Blackstone’s Twitter account did not address the China trip. Schwarzman attended the China Development Forum along with Cook, according to CNN Business.

Fraser traveled to China and met with Yunze in June, according to Reuters. The CCP appointed Li in May and Fraser was the first foreign executive to meet with him since he started his new position.

Citi “will play to its strength and continue to expand its business in China,” Fraser and other Citi executives said, according to Asia Financial. Fraser also said the U.S. and China should enhance communication and collaboration where interests overlap, South China Morning Post reported.

Republican Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer asked Fraser in 2022 if she would condemn the CCP’s genocide against Uyghur Muslims the year prior.

“We obviously take any accusations of human rights abuses very very seriously,” Fraser responded. “And … we do not do any activity with companies that are involved with forced labor.”

Citi’s Twitter account did not mention Fraser’s China trip whatsoever. The company opened an office in Shanghai in 1902, according to its website.

Tesla, Apple, Blackstone and Citi did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. JPMorgan and Citi declined the DCNF’s request for comment.

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Jason Cohen

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