Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates met China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday as tensions remain high between Washington and Beijing.
Mr Xi told Mr Gates that he was “the first American friend” he had met in Beijing this year, according to Chinese state media.
Mr Gates is the latest high-profile US business leader to visit China since it reopened its borders.
This weekend, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also visit China.
“I often say that the foundation of Sino-US relations is among the people, and we always look to the American people and hope that the two peoples will continue to be friendly,” Mr Xi was reported to have said to Mr Gates.
It was Mr Xi’s first meeting with a foreign business figure in recent years. He stopped travelling abroad in 2020, when China shut its borders during the pandemic. Mr Xi and Mr Gates are last known to have met in 2015.
This year, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan and Apple’s Tim Cook have all travelled to the country.
While they held meetings with senior Chinese officials, they did not meet Mr Xi.
Mr Gates is in China in his role as the co-chairman of the The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation he started with his former wife.
In 2020, Mr Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board to focus on the foundation, which focuses on global health, education and climate change.
He had quit his full-time executive role at the technology giant 12 years earlier.
Mr Blinken – who is the first US cabinet official to visit China since 2019 – is scheduled to arrive in Beijing this weekend. However expectations are low that any serious headway will be made on the growing list of disputes between the US and China.