The China Development Forum is back in action after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this year, the event’s attendee list is vastly different from previous years. Notable American companies are either boycotting the conference or sending relatively minor executives, with Apple being the only exception.
For years, the annual conference has been a platform for Western corporations to converse with Chinese officials, fostering good relations between the two countries. The conference is sponsored by the Chinese government, and top US CEOs have attended, including Tim Cook, who has even co-chaired the event.
According to Bloomberg, the conference’s organizers claim that over 100 foreign representatives will attend the event. However, the attendee list is largely devoid of high-profile US CEOs, with only Tim Cook and Pfizer’s Albert Bourla scheduled to make an appearance in person.
Unnamed sources told Bloomberg that American companies are hesitant to attend the conference due to trade tensions between the US and China. Allegedly, these companies are avoiding the conference to avoid attracting attention from the US government, particularly from the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, a new congressional body led by Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher.
The preliminary list of key US attendees at the conference includes Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, and Martin Flanagan, Invesco’s president.
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Trade tensions between the US and China have been escalating for several years, with the two nations engaging in a bitter trade war. At the 2018 China Development Forum, Tim Cook told reporters that he hoped “calm heads” would prevail. However, tensions have continued to simmer, and it remains to be seen how the conference will play out amidst these issues.