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Pandas and partnership: Was Xi's US trip a success?

SAN FRANCISCO, United States — In a whirlwind US trip this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping held long talks with President Joe Biden, got a standing ovation from top business leaders, and even hinted there could be more pandas on the way to the United States.

The high-profile welcome for Xi in San Francisco, coupled with the summit where he and Biden agreed to restore suspended US-Chinese military communications, add up to a successful visit, analysts say.

But in the face of heightened business risks and enduring national security concerns, experts say the rhetoric needs now to be backed up by action if it is produce meaningful long-term results for the Chinese leader, whose slowing economy needs to reverse the flight of foreign capital.

"For China, Xi's ability to gain a prominent platform in San Francisco (and) to speak with US business leaders was a success in and of itself," said Nathaniel Sher, senior research analyst at Carnegie China.

At a dinner Wednesday attended by executives like Apple CEO Tim Cook and BlackRock's Larry Fink, Xi said China was ready to be a "partner and friend" of the United States. He hinted Beijing could send more panda bears -- always a huge hit at US zoos -- as "envoys of friendship."

The world's richest person, Tesla and SpaceX tycoon Elon Musk, also met Xi before the dinner with other representatives, said Tesla in a Chinese social media post.

Xi's appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco marked a rare chance for him to interact with foreign business leaders, noted Trivium China in a newsletter, offering the opportunity to challenge the idea that China is inhospitable to foreign firms.

He did not show up in person to the APEC CEO summit -- and China did not offer an explanation for the no-show -- offering instead a written speech inviting firms to invest and deepen their footprint, promising "heart-warming" measures "to make it easier for foreign companies to invest and operate in China."

But beyond the warm words, US investors will be watching Xi's actions, as the world's number two economy slows and business confidence weakens.

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