On Friday, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, had a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping amidst ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing. According to Chinese state media, President Xi referred to Gates as “the first American friend” he had met in Beijing this year. This meeting comes as China reopened its borders, and Gates is the latest prominent American business leader to visit the country. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also scheduled to visit China this weekend.
President Xi reportedly emphasized the importance of friendly relations between the Chinese and American people during his conversation with Gates. This meeting marked the first time in recent years that President Xi has met with a foreign business figure, as he ceased foreign travel in 2020 due to the pandemic. His last known meeting with Gates took place in 2015.
In recent months, notable figures such as Elon Musk of Tesla, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, and Tim Cook of Apple have also visited China. While they held meetings with senior Chinese officials, they did not meet with President Xi.
During his visit, Gates represents the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a nonprofit organization he started with his former wife. After stepping down from Microsoft’s board in 2020, Gates has focused on the foundation’s initiatives related to global health, education, and climate change. He had previously left his full-time executive role at Microsoft twelve years ago.
Antony Blinken’s upcoming visit as the first US cabinet official to travel to China since 2019 carries low expectations for significant progress on the numerous disputes between the two countries.