With dignity and formality, Xi Jinping, who will soon be the leader of China and the Asian Communist Party, met on Tuesday with his host for the visit, Vice President Joe Biden, with President Obama himself, and with a wide range of dignitaries, including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, as well as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Panetta greeted the future leader of China at the River Entrance to the Pentagon, facing the Potomac River where US troops saluted Xi Jinping with a 19 gun salute.
The president and Xi discussed several issues of mutual importance: human rights, economic and currency disputes, imbalances of trade, military tensions, and more. The statesmen touched briefly on the issue of the vetoes of the NATO Arab League plan for Syria by China and Russia. That is a new issue, and still undergoing change daily. Fundamentally, Washington has accused Beijing of protecting rogue regimes and thereby promoting bloodshed. Emphasis instead went toward the general issue of civil, or human rights. At a luncheon later in the day, Xi defended his country’s position, but said, “Of course there’s always room for improvement on human rights.” It was a full day for Xi Jinping, including the 90 minute talk with Obama, receptions at the State Department and the Pentagon, a gathering with business executives, and a dinner at the home of Vice President Biden.
Outside the White House, and on the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, Tibetan protesters were detained by police, then released. The Tibetans are demanding freedom for Tibet, pleading with Xi Jinping to “Stop Lying to the World.” China is involved in an ongoing struggle to continue dominance of Tibet, Thailand, and the seas near Vietnam and the Philippine Islands. China takes the viewpoint that the United States is encouraging “Skepticism and dissent among neighbors in the region” with our adamant support of civil and human rights causes.
Obama and his administration devoted time to the discussion of important economic issues, including the balance of trade between the nations, with Vice President Xi Jinping. Obama stated, “With China’s meteoric rise as an economic powerhouse comes a responsibility to ensure balanced trade flows.” Later, Vice President Biden said, “We are not always going to see eye-to-eye. We are not always going to see things exactly the same, but we have very important economic and political concerns that warrant that we work together.”
All agree that the relationship between these nations is of paramount importance, yet it continues to be hindered by currency disputes. In his January State of the Union address, Obama announced he was creating a trade enforcement unit to take a legal position against other nations’ trade enforcement matters. Tension exists owing to China’s pereceived efforts to control the Chinese currency, the renminbi, making it, according to US officials, undervalued.
As the leaders spoke, the Senate was holding hearings on Chinese computer hacking. The US has accused China of electronic theft and industrial espionage. These matters cannot automatically be blamed on the Chinese government, and are considered very sensitive. Obama pressed Xi as to these issues but at the same time praised China for helping to thwart the Iranian nuclear program.
The five day American trip by Vice President Xi, expected to be the leader of China later this year, has been extensively covered by the state-run Chinese media. The Global Times, run by the Communist Party, on Monday editorialized, “The US has never met a competitor like China before.” China and America have a mutual interest in good relations, and much in common; Beijing, like the US, is grappling with how to deal with rising prices and a widening gap between rich and poor.
Speaking to the media with Xi at his side, Obama said, “We’ve tried to emphasize that because of China’s extraordinary development over the last two decades, that with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities…We want to work with China to make sure everyone is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system.”