Deborah Lehr (U.S.–China business adviser)
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Trump's gains for U.S. businesses in China

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrive for a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017, in Beijing. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

President Trump's trip to China exemplifies what I call his "head of state" diplomacy: prioritizing personal relationships with his foreign counterparts.

Trump's style has been criticized, but it is starting to yield real results for U.S. business interests. The administration's announcement of $253 billion in trade deals marks a new record for a China trip and will make a significant dent in the trade deficit, which is running at $273 billion for the first nine months of 2017.

Yet it is market access for our most competitive industries that will ultimately restore balance to the relationship, and President Xi has started to make concessions. Restrictions on foreign investment are being phased out or lifted on banks, brokerages and asset-management companies. China also removed the requirement that foreign firms transfer their sensitive technologies before being approved for investing or partnering in China, which has been a hurdle for American companies, especially in the auto industry.

Why it matters: Over time, these policies will further integrate China into the international financial system and create greater opportunities for foreign firms to operate in the world's fastest-growing major economy.

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Potential next act for trusted Xi adviser

Wang Qishan at a press event at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in 2012. Photo: Vincent Yu / AP

At last month's party congress, President Xi Jinping announced his new Politburo standing committee — China's seven most powerful men. Now attention has turned to the government appointments coming at the National People's Congress in March.

Many were surprised to hear that Wang Qishan, head of the anti-corruption campaign and a trusted adviser to Xi, would retire from the standing committee. The campaign remains a priority for Xi going into his second term, so there was a chance that Wang would continue at its helm.

Yet it appears that Wang will not go gentle into that good night. Rumor has it that he will be announced as China's next vice president — a clever move by President Xi if true. Wang had hit the informal retirement age on the standing committee, but the vice presidency has no upper age limit, nor a requirement that the officeholder be a standing committee member. Its incumbent, Li Yuanchao, was once a rising star but has lately been sidelined.

Why it matters: It's believed that Wang could become an international special envoy — a role that might include U.S.–China relations — while still influencing domestic financial and economic policy, extending his time as one of China's most powerful and feared leaders.

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What's next for Xi's China

President Xi Jinping, center, presides over the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo / Ng Han Guan

President Xi Jinping used the Communist Party's 19th Congress in Beijing to call for an invigorated economy at home and a stronger role for the party — of which he will now be "chairman," a title last held by Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic of China.

Why it matters: President Xi and his soon-to-be-announced dream team of officials will be ushering in not only a new era of ambitions for China but also a new phase in U.S.–China relations, as power shifts East.

Abroad, Xi will take a more activist approach than his predecessor, Hu Jintao, and expand efforts to build overseas military bases and engage in the Middle East and other hot spots. He'll also ramp up his signature Belt & Road initiative, which aims to solidify political and economic ties with more than 60 countries through infrastructure financing and soft power. While not an overt threat to the United States, those programs will undoubtedly advance conflicting interests, as China takes on a greater presence in regions where the U.S. has been the predominant influence.