The head of a New York City-based organisation that seeks to boost cooperation between China and the United States said Washington and Beijing should focus on making their countries “great” rather than engaging in a trade war.
Speaking at a seminar hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai on Tuesday, Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations said Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping should seek ways to work together so as to improve the lives of their people.
While it was acceptable for China and the US to compete on economic and diplomatic levels, a strategic rivalry would be damaging, he said.
“I don’t think we are strategic competitors. It’s dangerous for China and the United States,” said Orlins, who co-hosted a dinner for Xi in Seattle in 2015, before the start of the president’s state visit to Washington.
The US should focus on innovation, infrastructure and education, in line with Trump’s goal to make America great again, he said.
“To the extent that we are in a strategic competition, it will divert resources from those areas to defence establishments. We need to focus on what’s going to make America strong,” he said.
“Please speak up,” he told the representatives of US businesses at the seminar. “Talk to your home offices. Talk to your congressmen, senators, and talk about the benefits of constructive relations.”
Orlins also urged Washington to loosen its grip on Chinese investment in the US.
“When a Chinese buyer is blocked, what happens? The asset is still sold, but at a lower price,” he said, adding that losing money on the sale of public assets in such a way had a knock-on effect on social funds, like pensions.
For its part, Orlins said China should further open up its markets to foreign companies and deepen its economic reforms, as doing so would ultimately benefit the Chinese people.
Fighting poverty and making China a moderately prosperous society are central elements of Xi’s “Chinese dream”.
Orlins, a former diplomat and Hong Kong banker, was speaking after the US government on Monday banned sales by American companies to China’s telecommunications equipment maker ZTE, after it allegedly made false statements during an investigation into sales of its products to Iran.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday it was prepared to take action to protect the interests of ZTE and other Chinese firms.