Xi Jinping says China open to foreign business amid economic reforms

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during his welcoming banquet at the start of his visit to the United States, at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, Washington on 22 September 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Correspondents say Mr Xi and Mr Obama are likely to discuss hacking and economic reforms later in the state visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to reassure US business leaders, in a wide-ranging speech covering China's economic reforms and cyber crime.

Speaking in Seattle at the start of his state visit to the US, Mr Xi said foreign firms were welcome in China, and that Beijing would not manipulate its currency to boost exports.

He also denied Beijing engages in hacking but said China would co-operate with Washington on the issue.

Both issues have led to strained ties.

Hacking and economic reforms are expected to come up when Mr Xi meets his US counterpart Barack Obama at the White House on Friday.

James Cook, West Coast Correspondent, BBC News

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Xi is accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan on this trip

Xi Jinping's speech at a banquet in Seattle was wide-ranging, friendly and colourful, sprinkled with Chinese proverbs and references to American culture. From Sleepless in Seattle to Walt Whitman, Mr Xi lavished praise on the culture of his hosts.

He was particularly taken, he said, with Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea which follows a fisherman's epic struggle to land a huge marlin.

The president talked about China's struggles too, giving a personal account of his tough teenage years working with peasants in a poor village, with no meat to eat for months on end.

Now the village had an internet connection, as well as plentiful meat, he said. It was a subtle rebuke to rich Westerners who criticise China's rise, reminding them where his country is rising from.

Pointedly for an American audience, he referred to the Chinese Dream which was linked, he said, to his people's yearning for a better life.

When pop met political: Sleepless in Seattle and other things about Xi's speech

Ahead of Mr Xi's visit, business leaders had re-iterated the difficulties US firms have operating in China and the deteriorating outlook for the economy.

China's economy, which has grown rapidly in recent years, is beginning to slow, causing global concern about a fall in demand for global goods.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Xi's visit was also marked by protests by practitioners of Falun Gong, a religious movement banned in China, who were met with pro-Beijing counter-protests

Recent dramatic losses on the Chinese stock markets, despite government interventions, have led to questions over how well the government is managing the slowdown.

But Mr Xi told a dinner meeting of business leaders on Tuesday night that ensuring robust international trade was a top priority for China.

"China will never close its open door to the outside world," Mr Xi said in Chinese.

He called for "more understanding and trust" between the US and China, and "less estrangement and suspicion".

"Should they enter into conflict and confrontation, it would lead to disaster for both countries and the world at large," he said.

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Media captionLaura Galante: The United states and China have to decide on "the international rules they want to play by"

The US has recently alleged that the Chinese state was behind a massive data security breach of government databases as well as attacks on private firms.

But Mr Xi said China was "a strong defender of cyber security" as well as a "victim of hacking".

"The Chinese government will not, in whatever form, engage in commercial thefts or encourage or support such attempts by anyone," he said.

"Both commercial cyber theft and hacking against a government's networks are crimes that must be punished in accordance with law and relevant international treaties."

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Xi is meeting a number of prominent business and technology leaders during his time in the US, and will be visiting the major Boeing aeroplane construction site in Everett, Washington state.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Xi will also visit Boeing's assembly line in Everett, a suburb north of Seattle

Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday that Boeing has signed deals to supply 300 jets to Chinese airlines and leasing firms during the visit.

It also signed an agreement with a Chinese state-owned company to set up a completion centre for Boeing 737 planes, said Xinhua.

Mr Xi will be hosted at the White House for a state dinner on 25 September, and is due to give a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on 28 September.

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