Raimondo says US supports growth in China if Beijing ‘plays by the rules’

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo signaled Tuesday that the U.S. would support and encourage growth of the Chinese economy as long as China “plays by the rules.”

“I think that a growing China, which plays by the rules, is a good thing for China, a good thing for America and a good thing for the world,” Raimondo said in an NPR interview.

“That being said, our job — number one — is to protect the American people, the American economy and, of course, our national security,” she continued. “So if China plays by the rules, trade could be a good thing.”

The measured response comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping met with President Biden last month in a San Francisco summit focused on economic relations. The meeting made progress to mend ties in a fractured relationship between the U.S. and China, but distrust on trade and corporate relations remains.

The U.S. government and top American companies have long accused Chinese firms of illegal activity backed by the Chinese government, including industrial espionage. Raimondo, who was also at the Biden-Xi summit last month, went after the country for excessively subsidizing firms and bending labor and environmental regulations in order to get ahead.

Congress has put particular attention on U.S.-China relations this year, with a special House committee set up to prioritize work on the topic. GOP lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to take the economic threat of China more seriously.

Raimondo used military terms to describe the Commerce Department’s strategy versus China, with “offensive” and “defensive” components, warning that China would attempt to steal U.S. technology to help its military.

She held up the CHIPS and Science Act as the Biden administration’s key accomplishment in fending off the economic threat of China. That legislation, passed last year, invests in domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

“The most important thing we can do,” Raimondo said, is “run faster than China, innovate more than China, keep our lead on semiconductors and artificial intelligence.”

Despite signs from the summit that icy relations between the U.S. and China are warming, Raimondo was clear that the U.S. will be cautious in economic dealings with the country.

“We’re going to do business where we can, where it’s in our interest. We’re going to communicate so we deescalate and not escalate,” she said.

“The world can’t handle greater conflict between the U.S. and China. We’re going to manage the conflict, and that means communication,” she continued. “But, you know, we’re going to be tough, because we have to be.”

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