February 15, 2012 1:08:14 pm
The United States feted China’s Vice President Xi Jinping at the power centers of Washington,boosting his international profile but offering little insight into the man destined to rule the world’s most populous nation.
Xi stuck to a tightly scripted and packed schedule. It took him from a lengthy meeting with President Barack Obama,to an elaborate reception at the State Department,then full military honors at the Pentagon before a meeting with business leaders inside the grand stone edifice of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Tuesday’s itinerary may have tested Xi’s stamina,but the diplomatic rhetoric was tried and tested,echoing the tone of the state visit to Washington by China’s President Hu Jintao a year ago.
On Wednesday,Xi meets U.S. congressional leaders before addressing a gathering of corporate and policy leaders. He then travels to the Midwestern state of Iowa which he visited as a county official in 1985. That could allow him to show a more personal side and connect with ordinary Americans. He will later go to California.
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Tuesday was more about diplomatic niceties and soothing words of the promise of greater U.S.-China cooperation although punctuated with frank recognition of the differences that exist between the two nations on human rights,economic disputes and worsening foreign crises,particularly the violence in Syria.
Vice President Joe Biden alluded to a deterioration in human rights in China,and U.S. concern over several prominent dissidents. Xi responded as Hu did when he met Obama a year ago by defending China’s rights record but saying it could always do more.
A couple of hundred flag-waving Tibetan protesters and other sympathizers of the exiled Buddhist leader,the Dalai Lama,kept up noisy anti-China demonstrations throughout the day near the White House,but it did not derail the ceremonies.
Inside the Oval Office,Obama assured Xi,It is absolutely vital that we have a strong relationship with China.” The visiting leader smiled and looked at ease in his first formal meeting with the U.S. president.
Xi is set to succeed Hu as Communist Party leader late this year,then to become president in 2013. He is widely regarded as more adept than the stiff and staid Hu at making personal connections,but he will not call the shots on policy until he fully takes the reins of power.
The only sign of a personal touch Tuesday was Xi’s eclectic use of proverbs. They ranged from traditional Chinese,to the words of the 17th century British thinker,Francis Bacon,and even the lyrics of a 1980s theme song from a popular TV adaptation of a classic Chinese novel. He used the song,titled “Where is the Path?” to describe the uncertainties of charting the future of U.S.-China relations.
On the policy front,Biden announced some progress on areas of U.S. economic concern.
He said China informed the U.S. it would move forward with tax reforms this year that would increase imports and promote domestic consumption,a step away from its export-driven growth model that the U.S. says contributes to America’s burgeoning trade deficit. Biden also described an opening for foreign companies to sell auto insurance in China as an important step in reforming the finance sector.
But Biden repeated U.S. concerns over subsidies for Chinese state-owned companies and the forced transfer of technology as a condition for U.S. companies doing business in China. He also described the Chinese currency as still substantially undervalued” against the dollar,which the U.S. contends hurts its exporters.
Xi urged the U.S. to lift restrictions on high-tech exports to China and create a level playing field for Chinese companies to invest in America.
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