China Has One Powerful Friend Left in the U.S.: Wall Street

In February 2018, Beijing’s chief trade negotiator was in Washington to try to avert a trade war. Before meeting his U.S. counterparts, he turned to a select group of American business executives—mostly from Wall Street.

“We need your help,” Vice Premier Liu He told guests gathered in a hotel near the White House, according to people with knowledge of the matter. They included BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink, David Solomon, then Goldman Sachs Group ’s second-in-command, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon, there as chairman of the Business Roundtable lobbying group.

Looking for allies in trade talks with the Trump administration, Mr. Liu dangled a prize, the people say: Beijing offered to give U.S. financial firms a new opportunity to expand in China.

Shortly after the gathering, Mr. Liu presented China’s position to the U.S. side, including the financial opening. Most other U.S. industries were disappointed. The Trump administration rejected the offer as too narrow and sent the Chinese packing.

But Mr. Liu didn’t go home empty-handed. The get-together helped turn Wall Street into one of the biggest cheerleaders for a deal. In the trade agreement that was eventually signed in January, China’s financial opening stood out as a prominent concession.


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