2023 China Business Conference: Washington’s View of China

2023 China Business Conference: Washington’s View of China

SCCEI’s Impact Team attended the 13th Annual China Business Conference held in Washington, D.C. in May 2023. The team shares insights from the conference on issues raised surrounding the troubled U.S.-China relationship.

As part of SCCEI’s effort to build bridges between empirical China scholars in academia and China policy experts, SCCEI’s Impact Team attended the 13th Annual China Business Conference held in Washington, D.C. from May 9-10, 2023. Co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, the conference has evolved into a critical platform for U.S. government officials, corporate leaders, and policy experts to explore and debate the dynamics of U.S.-China relations.

Washington DC capital building

The conference convened an impressive mix of attendees, including senior officials from the Departments of State and Commerce, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Senators and Representatives central to shaping China policy in Congress, executives from multinational companies, and influential members of the beltway China-watching community. Dozens of panelists drawn from these ranks discussed a wide spectrum of issues facing the troubled U.S.-China relationship.

Several panelists expressed pessimism regarding China’s macro-economic outlook.  There was skepticism regarding the depth and durability of China's economic recovery in the post-Zero Covid era. Experts voiced concerns over the robustness of the recovery, casting doubt on whether it can be sustained over the long term. Furthermore, the debates pointed to an increasing consensus on the likelihood of a structural slowdown in China's growth.

Concerns were raised about the worsening climate for policy debate within China. There was reference to an uptick in reactionary policies and emerging "policy schizophrenia" from Beijing, leading to a less predictable policy environment. Panelists noted the mounting pressure for businesses operating in China to align with Beijing's political priorities, which may complicate the operating environment for foreign enterprises. There was a consensus that China's leadership is showing an increased willingness to take risks.

In the discussions centered on U.S. business in China, numerous challenges were highlighted. Regulatory uncertainties, the declining role of businesses in stabilizing U.S.-China relations, and mixed sentiments about the cost-benefit analysis of operating in China took center stage. Despite these hurdles, panelists emphasized the critical role of personal contacts and talent acquisition in navigating this complex landscape. They highlighted the need for U.S. companies to remain engaged in China, stressing the opportunities to learn from innovative Chinese companies, and the importance of success in the Chinese market for global competitiveness in certain sectors. Scenario planning around supply chain risks, market dependency risks, and U.S.-China regulatory uncertainties were advised.

Discussions on geopolitical risk also extended to the sensitive issue of Taiwan. There was a consensus among panelists about the imperative for the U.S. to avoid armed conflict with China and to establish guardrails around this increasingly contentious relationship. A defense department official reiterated US administration’s assessment that military conflict over Taiwan was not imminent or inevitable. In addition, some panelists also encouraged the U.S. administration to provide explicit assurances to Beijing that the U.S. does not support Taiwan independence and is willing to accept any outcome on Taiwan that is arrived at peacefully and that aligns with the interests of the people of Taiwan.

Members of Congress in attendance cited the need for "reciprocity" in relations with China and a collective "awakening" across the policy community to the troubling aspects of China's rise. They also explored the potential for including education, skills training, immigration reforms, and energy and military development in future legislation to bolster the U.S.'s competitiveness vis-à-vis China. Panelists deliberated on the possibility of new policy mechanisms, including an impending outbound investment screening regimen and additional tech export controls. Several panelists also cautioned against wholesale decoupling or US actions that would reinforce perceptions in China that relations are irreparable.

The business and policy making communities are both key audiences for the SCCEI Impact products, and the impact team participates in these events to contribute to and learn from debates among these leading stakeholders in the U.S.-China relationship. These conversations and exchanges of ideas facilitate a rich understanding of the dynamics at play, ensuring that the SCCEI's work remains informed, relevant, and impactful in informing discussions about China and the U.S.-China relationship.

Learn more about SCCEI Impact.

Read More

Sunset view of high rises in Beijing, China.

A Big Data China Event: “How Private Are Chinese Companies?”

Hosted in collaboration with the CSIS Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics, this Big Data China event provided an overview of the latest data-driven research evaluating the influence of China’s party-state on China’s companies and their ability to maintain autonomy.
cover link A Big Data China Event: “How Private Are Chinese Companies?”
Marc Tessier-Lavigne gives opening remarks at the 2023 Stanford Asia Economic Forum in Singapore.

Stanford Asia Economic Forum Convenes to Explore “Our Shared Future”

Stanford alumni, faculty, and industry leaders met in Singapore to promote the exchange of ideas and mutual understanding between the U.S. and Asia
cover link Stanford Asia Economic Forum Convenes to Explore “Our Shared Future”
PCB circuit board of electronic device

Experts Convene Roundtable to Discuss China’s Industrial Policy

The Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions and Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis co-organized a closed-door roundtable on the scope, impact, and implications of China’s industrial policy and produced a summary report of the discussion.
cover link Experts Convene Roundtable to Discuss China’s Industrial Policy