Xi dines with U.S. business executives

BlackRock Inc.'s Larry Fink and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Inc. were among the top U.S. executives seated at President Xi Jinping's table at an exclusive dinner in San Francisco, where the Chinese leader pitched his nation as a positive force for world peace.

Prominent business chiefs at the top table Wednesday evening were joined by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, at an event held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit.

Other big names granted a place beside China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong at the event included Apple Inc.'s Tim Cook, Bridgewater Associates' Ray Dalio, and Peng Zhao of Citadel Securities, according to a program seen by Bloomberg News.

"China does not seek spheres of influence, and will not fight a cold war or a hot war with anyone," the Chinese leader told the audience. The Communist Party's military aggression toward Taiwan -- a self-ruled democracy Beijing claims as its territory -- in recent years has prompted fears that China will invade the island, which is a major source of the world's most cutting-edge computer chips.

Xi's bodyguards were seated near his table to prevent attendees from approaching him. Security has been tight for the Chinese leader's stay in California, with the streets near his five-star hotel closed to traffic.

While Xi didn't mention Taiwan in his speech, his dovish tone could reassure some of the world's most powerful foreign investors that a conflict isn't on the horizon. The Chinese leader also didn't directly address challenges facing the world's second-largest economy this year, after the nation's much-anticipated post-pandemic reopening disappointed.

China has stepped up efforts to attract foreign investors, pledging again this week to strengthen policies to attract overseas capital. Its tightening of national security controls and state messaging that foreign actors pose spy risks, along with years of policy crackdowns, have left some skeptical of that message.

Xi went into the dinner hours after wrapping an afternoon of talks with President Joe Biden, aimed at stabilizing turbulence in the bilateral relationship that has troubled investors. Both sides said the talks were their most productive to date, and the leaders were pictured smiling and looking relaxed during their time together.

Biden said the two countries had come to important agreements on fighting fentanyl distribution, resuming military-to-military communications at a senior level, and establishing an understanding where either leader could call the other directly to resolve any miscommunication.

China described the meetings as a "candid and in-depth exchange of views" and said "one country's success is an opportunity for the other," according to a statement released by the nation's Foreign Ministry.

At the conclusion of his news conference Wednesday, Biden veered away from that positive tone, when responding to a question from a U.S. journalist about whether he stood by a comment he made in June calling Xi a dictator.

"Well, look, he is," Biden said Wednesday. "I mean he's a dictator in the sense that he is the guy who runs a country which is a communist country based on a form of government totally different from ours."