Premier Li Urges US-China Cooperation, Seeks ‘Concrete Actions’

(Bloomberg) -- New Premier Li Qiang called for China and the US to cooperate better, potentially opening the door for the nations to find a way past their recent tensions.

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“I want to stress that it is important for us to translate the important consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and President Biden during the meeting last November into actual policies and concrete actions,” Li said Monday.

The comments suggest a new willingness by China to resume talks with the US since the alleged spy balloon incident roiled ties between the world’s biggest economies. The tone of Li’s comments contrast with remarks by Xi a week ago, when he sought to rally China’s private sector to help overcome “containment” by the US and other countries — rare direct criticism of the nation’s biggest trading partner.

US President Joe Biden and Xi agreed to a series of goodwill gestures during a meeting in Bali, Indonesia, late last year — the first in-person talks between the leaders of the nations since the pandemic began. While Biden said he would speak with Xi after the US shot down the balloon, so far that hasn’t happened.

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In his remarks on Monday, Li also referenced Beijing’s view that Washington is trying to limit China’s progress, though his language wasn’t as harsh as that used by Xi and new Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who declared last week that US competition “means to contain and suppress China in all respects.”

Li said Monday that “China and the United States can and must cooperate,” adding that “encirclement and suppression are in no one’s interest.”

He added said China and the US were “closely intertwined economically,” saying that both nations benefited from each other’s development and pointing to last year’s two-way trade, which climbed to a record. The Biden administration has taken a series of steps in recent months to cut China off from advanced technology.

“I know that in recent years, some in the United States have been trumpeting the idea of decoupling with China and sometimes it could become quite a hot topic in the media, but I wonder how many people can truly benefit from this kind of hype,” Li said.

Li, who was Communist Party chief of Shanghai during the months-long Covid lockdown last year, said that he’s had a lot of experience talking with executives at multinationals, including many from the US.

“They all told me that they were optimistic about the future of Shanghai and China,” he said. “They all hope to see cooperation between all countries in the world.”

Earlier this month, a report from the American Chamber of Commerce in China said that for the first time in about 25 years the Asian nation was not a top three investment priority for a majority of US firms, as geopolitical tensions and domestic economic issues increasingly drive businesses to focus elsewhere.

--With assistance from Zibang Xiao.

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