DeSantis accuses executives of ’empowering an adversary’ by meeting with Xi

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) went after tech executives on Friday, saying they were “empowering an adversary” by attending a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his San Francisco visit this week.

“You have this meeting where American CEOs are just basically groveling in front of this dictator,” DeSantis said at a campaign event Friday. “Those guys make money on Wall Street and stuff, but they are empowering an adversary at the expense of the wellbeing of the American people.”

Xi also met with President Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) during the visit.

The meeting with tech leaders Thursday featured a standing ovation from the San Francisco crowd, with Xi’s speech appearing to open the door to more economic cooperation with the U.S.

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

Attending executives 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.

The event also brought Silicon Valley under fire from Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) as well as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board on Friday.

The Journal said the business leaders were “kowtowing” to Xi at a meeting which “delivered China a propaganda coup and the CEOs an embarrassment.”

“It’s a safe bet Mr. Xi hoped to create an appearance that American business is on his side lobbying against a firmer line on China policy in Washington,” the board said.

“All of this will hurt their image in the U.S., especially among those on the political right who are increasingly skeptical of big business but whom business needs to fend off regulatory and tax assaults from the political left,” they continued. “Shareholders might ask whether cozying up to Mr. Xi really serves their interests.”

Gallagher, chair of the House Select Committee on China, railed against the event’s organizers on Thursday and demanded they release a list of attendees.

“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.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.