Xi emphasized US-China cooperation during a meeting with Gates, saying common development should be the goal, not hegemony.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called Bill Gates “an old friend” and said he hoped they could work together in a way that would benefit both China and the United States, in Xi’s first meeting with a foreign entrepreneur in years.
Speaking at a meeting at the Diaoyutai state pension in Beijing, where China’s leaders traditionally receive high-ranking foreign visitors, Xi said he was very happy to see the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist after three years, and that Gates was the first American friend he had met this year.
“I often say that the basis of US-China relations is with the people. I place my hope in the American people,” Xi said in a video published by state broadcaster CCTV.
“With the current global situation, we can carry out various activities that are beneficial to our two countries and people, activities that benefit humanity as a whole,” he said.
Xi did not provide details, but emphasized the potential benefits of cooperation hampered by disputes over human rights, Taiwan, security and technology.
Gates, who arrived in Beijing on Wednesday, said he was “honoured” to meet. “We’ve always had great conversations and we’ll be discussing a lot of important topics today… it’s very exciting to be back.”
In a post on his personal blog, Gates said he and Xi had discussed global health and development challenges, such as health inequalities and climate change.
Xi stopped traveling abroad for nearly three years when China closed its borders during the coronavirus pandemic and his international meetings since reopening have mostly been with other state leaders.
Since reopening early this year, a number of CEOs have visited China, but most have met with ministers.
Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board in 2020 to focus on philanthropy in global health, education and climate change.
The last reported meeting between Xi and Gates was in 2015, when they met on the sidelines of the Boao Forum in Hainan province. In early 2020, Xi wrote to Gates thanking him and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their commitment to China, including $5 million to fight COVID-19.
Xi also discussed the global rise of artificial intelligence (AI) with Bill Gates and said he welcomed US companies, including Microsoft, bringing their AI technology to China, two sources familiar with the talks said.
One of the sources said they also discussed Microsoft’s business development in China.
Common development and no hegemony
Foreign business sentiment towards China has become more cautious as tensions rise between China and the US and Xi increases China’s focus on national security.
Gates’ visit comes ahead of a long-delayed trip to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken aimed at stabilizing relations between the world’s two largest economies and strategic rivals.
Blinken had a tense phone call with China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Wednesday, in which Qin urged the United States to stop interfering in their affairs and harming their security.
During his meeting with Gates, Xi said China would not follow the old path of a “strong country seeking hegemony” but would cooperate with other countries to achieve common development, according to the People’s Daily newspaper. China often accuses the US of pursuing hegemony.
In addition to meeting Xi, Gates gave a speech at the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute during his visit on the need to use technology to solve global health challenges.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Beijing municipal government, which co-founded the institute with Tsinghua University, also committed to provide $50 million each to strengthen the institute’s drug discovery capacity.