China sends sanctioned official to AmCham dinner

BEIJING • In a show of defiance, Beijing sent a top official sanctioned by the US to an annual dinner hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Beijing.

The Chinese government was represented at the AmCham event on Thursday by Mr Wang Chen, a member of the Communist Party's Politburo. Mr Wang is also vice-chairman of the National People's Congress and among 14 officials sanctioned by the US on Monday over the body's role in constraining freedoms in Hong Kong.

China often designates a representative with an economically focused portfolio, such as Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua, the guest at last year's dinner. Mr Wang spent much of his career in various propaganda roles, including a stint as editor-in-chief of the People's Daily, the party's top mouthpiece.

"Other developments this week involved political considerations, of which we're not a part," AmCham China chairman Greg Gilligan said in an e-mailed statement, referring to the tit-for-tat sanctions imposed on officials from both countries.

"We are an independent organisation that aims to be a commercial bridge on behalf of our members between the US and China."

A spokesman for the US Embassy declined to comment on Mr Wang's attendance, adding that no one from the embassy attended the event due to last-minute Covid-19 testing requirements.

Mr Wang said Beijing would continue to create a favourable business environment for foreign firms and "treat all enterprises registered in China equally", according to a report by state-run CGTN.

He said he hoped AmCham could play an active role in facilitating the two countries in "re-launching dialogue, returning to normal tracks and rebuilding mutual trust".

The appearance by such an official at an AmCham event could feed criticism in Washington that the US business community has not sufficiently defended broader American interests while pursuing access to the Chinese market.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Mr Wang was invited by AmCham. "This just shows that the so-called sanctions by the US are unpopular and will not be supported by all sectors of the US," Ms Hua told a regular news briefing.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2020, with the headline China sends sanctioned official to AmCham dinner. Subscribe