Chinese President Xi Jinping met with billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corp., in Beijing on Friday and expressed his hope for continued friendship between people of China and the United States, state-run media said.
Xi's message came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit China for talks with senior Chinese officials from Sunday, with Washington seeking to defuse bilateral tensions over Taiwan and other issues.
In the talks with the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Xi said Gates is "the first American friend I have met in Beijing this year" and stressed that people-to-people exchanges are at the foundation of China-U.S. relations.
The president also praised Gates for his efforts to reduce poverty and improve public health through the foundation.
Since China abandoned its stringent "zero-COVID" policy involving lockdowns and quarantines in January, several world business leaders, including Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook and Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, have visited China.
It is rare for Xi to meet with business representatives, as Premier Li Qiang or Commerce Minister Wang Wentao usually holds such talks.