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U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns' Speech at AmCham China Annual Appreciation Dinner – As Prepared
February 23, 2023

February 15, 2023


Thank you very much for welcoming me tonight to this magnificent dinner. Thank you to Colm, Michael, and the entire AmCham team here in Beijing.


All of us here from the U.S. Mission, including our Deputy Chief of Mission, Dave Meale and Senior Minister Councilor for Commercial Affairs, Laurie Farris, are very grateful.


And to our Chinese colleagues, thank you Vice Chairman Wan Gang for your participation. Thank you to International Trade Representative Vice Minister Wang Shouwen, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Ren Hongbin, and other Chinese officials who are here tonight.


It is my great pleasure to join you this evening for the AmCham’s Annual Appreciation dinner.


I want to make three brief points in my remarks this evening.


First, I want to acknowledge the immense support our embassy and consulates receive from our AmCham partners. You in AmCham are a vital link between the U.S. government and American businesses here in China.


I’ve been Ambassador here for nearly a year. And I must tell you—I’ve been very impressed by AmCham.  I’ve benefited from your advice and support, as have all my colleagues in the U.S. Mission.


AmCham is a steadfast advocate for American businesses with both the Chinese and U.S. governments – offering all of you a valued platform to ensure you have the best environment possible to succeed.


AmCham has also played a key role in the U.S.-China Economic relationship while creating jobs back home in the USA. The Department of Commerce announced just last week the final 2022 U.S.-China trade figures.  They show $690.6 billion in two-way trade in goods.  China is the third largest U.S. trade partner after Canada and Mexico.  American exports to China reached a record level of $154 billion in 2022.  In addition, the Department of Agriculture just announced its highest figure ever of $40.9 billion in U.S. agriculture sales to China, the largest export market for American farmers and ranchers last year.


We appreciate the role AmCham is playing in actively advocating for American businesses and championing a level playing field in the PRC.


We are thankful for your surveys and briefings on the many challenges and opportunities that U.S. businesses are facing. AmCham members know well the longstanding issues in the bilateral trade relationship and the vast array of unfair Chinese government economic policies and practices that remain unaddressed.


As Ambassador, I am concerned that imbalances in the economic relationship caused in large part by unfair PRC government policies, continue to grow.


My colleagues and I at the U.S. Mission have reviewed and studied the 500+ page AmCham White Paper, which provides important detail on how many of these long-standing concerns remain unaddressed by the PRC government, including: the PRC’s longstanding support for its state enterprises; its subsidies and industrial policies; its preferences for domestic products in the procurement processes; its censorship and other restrictions on foreign cultural products; its strict cybersecurity and data localization requirements; and its objectionable cyber intrusions – to name just a few.


And we have deep and continued concerns about protecting your intellectual property in China despite years of sustained efforts. These concerns – about Chinese violations of American intellectual property – have only become more complex and worrisome in recent years.


The American Chamber and its fraternal organizations are central to our long struggle for a level playing field for U.S. firms. Everyone here this evening is critical to these efforts.


I can assure you the U.S. Mission will continue to support American businesses facing the many challenges to doing business here.


We want to help American companies in the PRC on all these issues. We in the U.S. Mission will continue to work with our PRC counterparts to make your case.  We will be unwavering in asserting these important American interests and in holding the PRC accountable.


My second point will not surprise anyone in this room tonight. The year past was among the most challenging in memory.  I am proud of the hard work that our embassy and consulates did to ensure that American citizens and businesses were supported throughout the challenges that came with the Covid-19 pandemic.


In early 2022 — one year ago with Zero-COVID policies in full effect – we were facing a very different situation than we are today.


During the numerous and sporadic lockdowns, disruptions to work and travel, objectionable fever hospitals, intrusive testing and more over many months, our U.S. Mission team mobilized to help U.S. citizens travel, receive medical care, and address many other challenging situations.


Nowhere was this more difficult than during last spring’s extended lockdown in Shanghai. We mobilized support for those affected by drawing from all of our posts, deploying over 60 officers to meet the needs of thousands of American citizens throughout the crisis.


We ran a 24-hour command center and confronted unprecedented mobility and resource restrictions.


I hope you all felt that support for the American business community by the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, led by our outstanding Consul General Jim Heller.


With Zero-COVID, lockdowns, and mass testing all mercifully behind us, let us hope the environment for American business will be more predictable in 2023 than the year past. I am looking forward to traveling throughout China this year and visiting many of your companies and seeing first-hand the work that the U.S. business community is doing here.


My third and final point is one that has come into full view in the last few weeks — this is a time of genuine challenge in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China. President Biden’s strategy is clear — “invest, align, compete” in U.S.-China relations.


We are making major, indeed generational investments in our infrastructure and economy at home; we are strengthening our historic alliances with Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand as well as with the creation of AUKUS and expanding cooperation in the Quad. The result is that the strategic position of the U.S. here in the Indo-Pacific has been strengthened immeasurably.  We will also never shrink from competition with the PRC when that is necessary, as it often is in the security, economic, technology, and human rights realms.


We will protect our national security when it is undermined by PRC economic policies, just as other countries are doing.  You have, for example, seen this in our strong export control actions against China in recent months in key technology areas. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently remarked, “there’s an intense competition that’s underway to shape what actually comes next,” and technology will play a key role in retooling our economies and will reshape the lives of people across the planet.


More broadly, we will continue to assert foundational American values, including with regard to the primacy of human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.  Let us remember that the rule of law, fair play, and human dignity and freedom are essential to a successful business climate. With that in mind, American firms must continue to abide by the strict requirements of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.


As you can see from our policies and actions, we will continue to protect our national security in the U.S.-China relationship and maintain as large a lead as possible in critical technologies.


The U.S. has also been consistent in saying that we are ready to work with China when our interests coincide— such as on climate change, global health, the fight against illicit shipment of Fentanyl precursors and the devastating impact it has had across America, and food security.


Finally, the past two weeks have been particularly challenging for our relationship with China with the irresponsible and illegal PRC surveillance balloon and its open violation of U.S. sovereignty, territorial integrity, and international law.


As President Biden said in his State of the Union Address last week — let me quote him here: “we seek competition, not conflict. But I will make no apologies that we’re investing to make America stronger.  Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, that China intends to be dominating. Investing in our alliances and working with our allies to protect advanced technologies so they will not be used against us.”


“Today, we’re in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world. And I am committed to work with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world.  But make no mistake about it: As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country.  And we did.”


In sum, the U.S. Mission in China will continue to support AmCham.


We look forward to another year of continued collaboration with you. Together, we will ensure the success of U.S. business in China.  Our U.S. Mission doors are open to all American companies here in China.  We look forward to meeting with all of you in the months ahead.


I wish you all a prosperous and healthy year of the rabbit and look forward to working together to achieve our mutual goals.


To Colm, Michael, and all in AmCham — thank you for this dinner.


Thank you for the privilege of speaking this evening.