The Bank of China is one of the largest banks in the world, ranking 13th on the Forbes Global 2000 2022 list of the world’s best publicly traded companies. The Beijing-headquartered institution was among a record number of Chinese companies to make the list this year (see related article here.)

Wei Hu, president of the bank’s US operations, spoke at the “US-China Business Forum” organized by Forbes China and held at Forbes on Fifth in New York on August 9. I had the opportunity to speak with Hu about the bank’s US operations. business, the outlook for the US economy and the impact of geopolitical tensions between the US and China. Hu is also president of the China General Chamber of Commerce, an organization of Chinese businesses in the United States whose members contribute directly and indirectly to the employment of more than one million Americans. Edited excerpts follow.

Flannery: The bank has grown considerably since you opened your first branch here in 1981. How does your business mix here differ from China?

Hu: The bank is the most international of all banks in China. Although the market is a bit different, we share the same strategy: to serve the local community while connecting with the world.

Nevertheless, we also use different resources. In the US our resources are limited – in China our branch network is naturally much larger. We focus the resources we have locally (in the United States) on key customers – large corporations, major real estate developers and Chinese companies that are going global, and we work with them to support local economic growth, as well as the trade and investment between the United States and China, as well as the rest of the world.

Flannery: How does the United States rank among all your foreign markets?

Hu: Bank of China operates in more than 60 countries and regions around the world, and the United States is definitely one of the key markets, given the size and opportunities between the two economies. Fortunately, we have the market (at home), we have a solid reputation and we have a dynamic talent pool.

Flannery: By some definitions, the United States entered a recession in the first half. Whether it is called that or not, growth is slow. What impact does this have on your business?

Hu: We understand that economic growth over the past two quarters has been negative, and we see a continued slowdown in the overall economy. We are quite cautious about the evolution of the economy, about the potential impact of interest rate hikes and credit cycles. However, we remain cautiously optimistic about our growth in the near future. Our clients are top tier customers with strong credit profiles. We always take a conservative approach and apply strict risk management standards. We will continue to monitor market developments closely.

Flannery: What about the geopolitical difficulties in the world right now, especially in the United States and China? What is the impact of this on your business?

Hu: I would say it’s actually quite a difficult problem for us, not only for the bank, but also for our member companies of the China General Chamber of Commerce. As the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China are inextricably linked. A mutually beneficial and strong relationship is extremely critical. Unfortunately, the conflict is observable. Many activities in between have decreased significantly. The impact, uncertainty and complexity exist on many fronts.

We have many opportunities to connect with different partners, both from USA and China. We hope to help both parties create workable or practical solutions. We believe this is in the interests of both countries, especially for businesses, consumers and employment on both sides.

Flannery: What awaits the value of the Chinese currency against the US dollar?

Hu: This is another important question. When talking about the renminbi, you have to consider the whole world, not just China and the United States. During the first and second quarters, the Chinese economy was somewhat affected by the pandemic. However, we see signs of (it) rebounding from June. We have also seen the global (growth) downward trend, especially in emerging economies, with the impact of Fed interest rate hikes influencing the renminbi’s comparison to other currencies. If you take that into account, we still see the renminbi as a safe harbor for global economies.

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The 4e The US-China Business Forum was organized by Forbes China, the Chinese-language edition of Forbes. The rally was held in person for the first time since 2019; it was held online in 2020 and 2021 at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Other speakers included the Chinese ambassador to the American Qin gang; James Shih, Vice President, SEMCORP; Abby Li, Director of Corporate Communications and Research, China General Chamber of Commerce; Audrey Li, Managing Director, BYD America; Lu Cao, Managing Director, Global Corporate Bank, Corporate & Investment Bank, JP Morgan.

Also speaking were Stephen A. Orlins, Chairman of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations; Ken Jarrett, Senior Advisor, Albright Stonebridge Group; Dr. Bob Li, Physician Ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Yue-Sai Kan, Co-Chair, China Institute.

See related articles:

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Growth Prospects Top US Business Anxiety Today: US-China Business Forum

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Pandemic’s impact on Chinese economy only short-term, says US ambassador

US-China Trade Prospects: New Ways Forward