Microsoft founder Bill Gates met with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Friday, becoming the first U.S. entrepreneur to secure an in-person meeting with the Chinese leader this year following other high-profile visits to the country by U.S. business leaders including Elon Musk, Tim Cook and Jamie Dimon.
Xi told Gates that he was the first “American friend” he’s met in Beijing this year, adding, “people should move around more…and enhance their understanding of each other,” as Covid restrictions are being lifted globally, a reporter from Chinese state-run outlet Global Times reported.
The Chinese president said China has always “placed our hopes in the American people” and hopes to see “enduring friendship” between people from both countries, a remark that comes amid continued geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Xi added that China is willing to “extensive technological innovation cooperation” on issues such as climate change, Covid-19 and public health.
Details about Gates’ remarks and the agenda of the meeting have yet to be reported, but it comes a day after the billionaire spoke at the Beijing-based Global Health Drug Discovery Institute and met with the capital city’s mayor, Yin Yong.
Gates praised the research work done by the institute—which was established in 2016 by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Beijing municipal government and Tsinghua University—and announced it will receive a $50 million grant over the next five years from his foundation.
The donation amount will be matched by the Beijing municipal government.
Gates’ visit to China comes against the backdrop of recent trips to the country by several other prominent American business leaders, as its economy reopens following nearly three years of stringent pandemic restrictions. Last month, Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk visited China—a key manufacturing hub for the electric car maker—and met with key government officials, including foreign minister Qin Gang and industry and IT minister Jin Zhuanglong. According to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry, Musk said the U.S. and China’s interests are closely intertwined and he opposes any “decoupling” efforts. Apple CEO Tim Cook visited China in March and lavishly praised the country’s “innovation” and rapid development. Last month, JPMorgan Chase CEO spoke at his company’s Global China Summit in Shanghai and called for more engagement between the leaders in Washington and Beijing.
Relations between the U.S. and China have been mired in heightened tension over the past few years that has spilled over into the technology domain. The U.S. has sanctioned several Chinese firms and limited their access to advanced U.S.-designed hardware and software. Both the U.S. and its allies have moved to limit China’s access to top-tier semiconductor technology, dealing a blow to Beijing’s ambition to build advanced chips and AI tools at home. In response, China has cracked down on some American firms, including chipmaker Micron, banning the use of its products in key infrastructure projects.