President Xi Jinping of China met Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates on Friday, expressing hope that the friendship between Chinese and Americans will continue. During the meeting, Xi, in particular, told Gates that the billionaire is the “first American friend” that the Chinese leader has met in Beijing this year.
COVID-19 restrictions on foreign visitors to China were removed after Beijing discontinued its “zero Covid” policies in late 2022, and “there appears to be a lot of pent-up demand” to visit the PRC, Feingold said.
As far as Gates is concerned, given that he made positive statements about Beijing’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, “it’s no surprise that as soon as there was an opportunity to do so, he would visit China and seek to expand joint initiatives between institutions in the PRC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” according to Feingold.
He said that “the Xi-Gates meeting appears to be an effort by the Chinese government to improve” their country’s image because “when Gates talks, people listen, and during his trip to China, and after meeting Xi, he has said positive things about the PRC’s contributions to public health.”
In this vein, the analyst recalled about the announcement that over the next five years, the Gates Foundation will provide $50 million to the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI), a Beijing-based organization set up by the Gates Foundation, the Beijing municipal government and Tsinghua University, “to improve health outcomes worldwide through lifesaving therapies for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, which disproportionately affect the world’s poorest.”
It is something which “ensures that going forward, someone as influential as Gates will continue to be a friend to China,” Feingold pointed out, referring to Beijing’s efforts to “send the message to the global business community that the PRC welcomes foreign investment.”
When asked whether Gates pursued his personal goals or acted as an ambassador of sorts when meeting Xi, the analyst reminded that with the billionaire’s “departure from the Microsoft board in 2020, Gates has generally turned his focus to his charitable endeavors, most notably public health.”
“Gates does publicly share his views on technology issues such as artificial intelligence and clean tech. However, in his public comments, he usually doesn’t discuss much about how to make money, whether for Microsoft, himself, or investors in general. So his visit to China is primarily about public health and the Gates Foundation cooperation with partners in China,” the analyst underlined.