Obama meets Chinese V-P,rights,economy on agenda

US President Barack Obama told Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping that Beijing must play by the same trade rules as other major world powers and vowed to keep pressing China to clean up its human rights record

Written by Reuters | Washington | Published:February 16, 2012 12:58 am

US President Barack Obama told Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping on Wednesday that Beijing must play by the same trade rules as other major world powers and vowed to keep pressing China to clean up its human rights record.

In White House talks,Obama sought to reassure Xi that Washington welcomed China’s peaceful rise. But he signalled that frictions would remain,with growing economic and military rivalry between the two countries,and chided China over its opposition to UN action on Syria.

The meeting with Obama was the centerpiece of a heavily scripted visit that could help the Chinese vice-president boost his international standing and show he is capable of steering his country’s relationship with Washington for the next decade.

Obama’s firm message on trade,currency,human rights and global issues such as Syria was notable,given that the meetings were previewed as essentially sizing-up sessions. Obama has assumed a tougher tone with China in recent months,and is under election-year pressure from Republican presidential candidates,who say his approach has been too conciliatory.

With expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities,Obama said as he sat side by side with Xi in the Oval Office.

“We want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system,and that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow,” he said.

But Xi,who has to play to a powerful Communist Party apparatus and nationalist sentiment at home,later told American business leaders that Beijing was acting on US concerns but asked for similar consideration from the Obama administration.

Obama pressed the Chinese leadership to let the value of the yuan rise and to do more to reduce the record $295.5 billion US trade deficit with China — two issues fuelling concerns that Chinese practices are putting US firms at a disadvantage.

Xi,58,in line to assume the presidency in March 2013,said he looked forward to building a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect but did not address Obama’s criticism in their joint appearance before reporters. Each leader smiled and nodded as the other spoke and they shook hands. Xi’s visit comes when ties between Beijing and Washington —the world’s two biggest economies — have been buffeted by strains over economic disputes,human rights and each country’s military intentions.

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