American business titans who paid thousands to be in the room with Chinese President Xi Jinping gave the communist country’s leader a standing ovation after his remarks in San Francisco this week.
On Wednesday evening, Xi dined with more than 300 American business executives and delivered remarks promoting investment in China, a country many Americans consider the greatest threat to the U.S., at a gala in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency in downtown San Francisco.
“The number one question for us is: are we adversaries or partners?” Xi said during his remarks. “China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States.”
Among the American executives gathered to listen to Xi were Apple CEO Tim Cook, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, FedEx CEO Raj Subramaniam, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stanley Deal, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, and Mastercard’s independent board chairwoman Merit Janow.
Apple’s chief was seated next to Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, place cards reportedly showed.
Also in attendance were executives from Amway, Honeywell, Broadcom, Las Vegas Sands, Gilead Sciences, investment firm KKR, and Fulgent Genetics, a genetic testing lab in Los Angeles.
Attendees rose and applauded when Xi concluded his half hour of remarks, a video from the event shows.
My view of the standing ovation for Chinese President Xi Jinping tonight in San Francisco from a ballroom full of some of the most powerful American CEOs and Chinese officials. I’ll have more Thursday morning on @SquawkCNBC on @CNBC. pic.twitter.com/WP6MVeBLfZ
— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) November 16, 2023
BREAKING: List of elite American executives dining with genocidal communist “Guest of Honor” Xi Jinping last night for $40,000 in San Francisco.
— Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (@committeeonccp) November 16, 2023
Tesla CEO Elon Musk attended the VIP reception, but did not stay for the dinner, according to event organizers.
Several members of the Biden administration attended the dinner, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, and top White House China advisor Kurt Campbell.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed was seated at the head table. California State Treasurer Fiona Ma attended the dinner as well.
Tickets for the event cost $2,000 each. However, companies could pay $40,000 for eight seats at a table plus one seat at Xi’s table.
The dinner was organized by the U.S.-China Business Council and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
Outside, protesters gathered to demonstrate against the Chinese president’s visit. One woman strapped herself to a pole 25 feet in the air in the rain, yelling “Free Tibet!”
Americans with Tibetan, Hong Kong, and Uyghur heritage expressed frustration that Xi was being given a friendly reception.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Chinese president met with President Biden just south of San Francisco at the Filoli estate, where they spoke for several hours.
Republicans quickly slammed Xi’s visit as “fruitless.”
“Having these senior level meetings without getting anything in return and without having any desired outcomes sets a horrible precedent and makes the United States look incredibly weak,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) said Thursday.
Xi last visited the U.S. in 2017 during the Trump administration.
Last year, China did nearly $760 billion worth of trade with the U.S., and the trade deficit with China was $367.4 billion in 2022.