August 18, 2022

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2021, ahead of a Senate Grants Committee hearing to review America’s employment plan.

Oliver Contraras | Swimming pool | Reuters

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo promised Thursday that the US will continue to do business as usual after the country was apparently targeted in a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We will do everything possible to ensure that our US companies are treated fairly and have access to the Chinese market,” she said on CNBC’s Closing Bell. “We will make sure that the Chinese obey the rules, protect intellectual property, and give our markets and our companies access to this market.”

In a speech to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party, Xi warned that nameless foreign opponents who seek to “intimidate” China would be “battered and bloody” after facing its “great wall of steel”.

Raimondo dismissed the comments as tough talk, saying the US was “just playing our game”.

“That is of course a lot of talk and rhetoric. I think US companies need to focus on their business,” she said.

When asked about the country’s human rights violations against ethnic minorities, Raimondo said the US would continue to work with allies to “stand up” against China.

“Not only America, but also the allied countries that believe in democracy and share values, will put enough pressure on them to stop these clear and unjust and inhuman actions,” she said.

The Biden administration has taken a tough road with China, even as it has moved away from the caustic rhetoric of the Trump administration, which waged a trade war with Beijing and publicly blamed it for the coronavirus outbreak.

In March, the Biden White House imposed sanctions on two Chinese officials. The Treasury Department accused both of them – Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Party Committee, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau – of having played a role in “severe physical abuse” against Uighur Muslims.

American corporate heads including Nike’s John Donahoe and Tesla’s Elon Musk have received some backlash in recent days for positive comments on China, a key market.

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Donahoe said on a conference call last week that Nike was “a brand of China and for China,” while Musk in a tweet on Thursday praised China for its “economic prosperity,” particularly in infrastructure.

In response, Raimondo, whose job is to represent U.S. businesses and increase employment opportunities, said she wouldn’t tell a CEO how to run a business, even though she would take a different approach.

“If I were a CEO, I would speak out against human rights abuses, and I think we should all agree that when we see human rights abuses, when we see racism, when we see this type of behavior, we should speak up and to speak, “she said. “That is leadership.”