Chinese leader Xi gets standing ovation at banquet with US executives

Chinese President Xi Jinping received a standing ovation Wednesday night as he took the stage to address a dinner with business executives at a summit of Indo-Pacific leaders in California.

In his address, Xi appeared open to cooperation with the U.S., telling the crowd, “We are in an era of challenges and changes. It is also an era of hope. The world needs China and the United States to work together for a better future,” according to an English language translation of his remarks from The Associated Press (AP).

“China has no intention to challenge the United States or unseat it,” he said, per AP’s translation. “Likewise, the United States should not bet against China, or interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Those in attendance for the $2,000-per-plate dinner included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and leaders from Pfizer, FedEx, Boeing and KKR, according to The Wall Street Journal. Tesla owner Elon Musk was at the VIP reception but did not stay for the dinner, according to CNBC, citing event organizers.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on China, railed against the American companies’ decision to attend the dinner.

“It is unconscionable that American companies might pay thousands of dollars to join a ‘welcome dinner’ hosted by the very same [Chinese Communist Party] officials who have facilitated a genocide against millions of innocent men, women, and children in Xinjiang,” Gallagher wrote in a statement earlier this week.

Gallagher is requesting that the event’s organizers — the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council — provide a full list of the individuals, companies and other entities that purchased tickets to the dinner as well as information on how those profits will be distributed between the event’s organizers and other entities.

The Wisconsin Republican is also asking for the names of those that paid a $40,000 fee to sit at the table with Xi, along with any steps the event organizers have taken to “defend human rights in China and to prevent the genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

The Hill reached out to Gallagher’s office for further comment.

Wednesday night’s banquet came after Xi’s nearly four-hour long meeting with President Biden on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco.

Biden told reporters he was “blunt” with Xi on areas of tension between the two countries, while touting areas of cooperation, including the resumption of military-to-military communications and combatting illegal fentanyl in what was their first face-to-face meeting in a year.

The U.S. president told Xi, per the AP: “I think it’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader-to-leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunications. We have to ensure competition does not veer into conflict.”

Speaking with reporters after their meeting Wednesday, Biden called Xi a “dictator,” marking the second time this year the president referred to Xi that that term.

“Look, he is. He’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that is based on a form of government totally different from ours,” Biden said.

China’s Foreign Ministry pushed back on this statement, telling reporters Thursday it “strongly opposes” the comments without mentioning Biden by name.

“This statement is extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a routine briefing Thursday, according to a Reuters report.

“It should be pointed out that there will always be some people with ulterior motives who attempt to incite and damage U.S.-China relations, they are doomed to fail,” Mao added.

When asked to specify the identity of “some people,” Mao refused, according to Reuters.

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