Xi Jinping presses the flesh with US tech bosses, promises reform
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to remove obstacles for US firms wanting to invest in China, as well as committing to strengthening intellectual property protection in the world largest consumer market.
Xi made the commitments whilst touring the main Microsoft campus in Seattle, where he met with the boss of leading US tech firms including Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Facebook, Amazon and others.
The Chinese president decided not to make the White House the first stop of his first official state visit to the United States since he became China’s President in 2013.
Instead, he, along with First Lady Peng Liyuan and a high-level Chinese delegation were welcomed to the Redmond campus on Wednesday by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Nadella talked about his optimism for technology’s potential to help tackle big challenges, and said that Microsoft agrees with previous statements by Xi and President Obama on the importance of “cultivating a relationship between China and the United States based on cooperation and mutual respect.”
Xi met with senior Microsoft executives and board members and viewed technology demos including the yet-to-be-released HoloLens and 82-inch Surface Hub.
There was some very notable attendees including former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and many of the bosses of major US tech firms including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, IBM’s Virginia Rometty, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Cisco’s John Chambers, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma. Notable by their absence was the management of Google/Alphabet and Twitter.
“Without reform, there will be no driving force; without opening up, there will be no progress,” Xi said. He also touched upon China’s recent economic slowdown, and said the government was taking steps to address it.
“I believe in the long run that the fundamentals of the Chinese economy are good,” he added.
President Xi also had talks with the US technology leaders, and it is reported that conversation covered regulation and clean energy. There was no mention if cyber security or the Chinese exclusion of US products from government procurement contracts was talked about.
The President then toured a Boeing facility before travelling onto Washington and the White House.
Cisco meanwhile has announced it will form a joint-venture with Chinese server maker Inspur to sell networking and cloud computing products in China. Cisco and Inspur said they would invest $100m (£66m) in the project.
Earlier in the week Microsoft announced a partnership with Chinese search engine Baidu and private investment firm Tsinghua Unigroup on cloud technology. Last week Dell said it will invest £80bn over five years in China. Intel has also made deal with Baidu, and earlier this year, IBM pledged to help develop China’s advanced chip industry.
Despite all the fine sounding rhetoric, there are real challenges for US technology firms operating in China. Earlier this year China demanded that all foreign tech firms hand over their source code if they sell kit to Chinese banks.
The US meanwhile made it very difficult for Chinese firm Huawei to sell its products in the United States, arguing that its equipment could have “back doors”. Indeed, in a 2012 report, the Intelligence Committee of the US House of Representatives alleged that Huawei and ZTE could not be “trusted to be free of foreign state influence”, and “thus posed a security threat to the United States and to our systems”.
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