Tuesday, February 14, 2012

China's (potential) new leader has taken a trip to the US. Hear what he had to say

China's Xi Jinping in closely-watched visit to the US

Xi Jinping. File photo

Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping alluded to regional concerns over the US presence in the Pacific

The man likely to become China's next leader, Vice-President Xi Jinping, has begun a closely watched visit to the United States.

In comments to a US newspaper ahead of his trip, Mr Xi sounded a note of warning to the US over its military stance in the Pacific.

He said scaling up military activity was not what countries in the region wanted to see.

He is due to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

"This will be an opportunity for the leaders of both countries to really sit down and talk about our differences," said US Ambassador to China Gary Locke after greeting Mr Xi.

He added that the leaders would also be able to "really focus on the common interests that both the US and China have".


Who is Xi Jinping?

  • China's likely next leader, expected to lead the country from 2013
  • Currently China's vice-president and vice chair of the Central Military Commission (which controls the army)
  • Son of Xi Zhongxun, one of the Communist Party's founding fathers
  • Joined the party in 1974
  • His wife, singer Peng Liyuan, describes him as frugal, hardworking and down-to-earth

Mr Xi, 58, is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao, who must retire as head of the Communist Party later this year and from the presidency in 2013.

His visit comes a year after Mr Hu's trip to Washington, which he referred to in his comments published in The Washington Post provided by the Chinese government.

He is making the week-long trip as a guest of US Vice-President Joe Biden, who made a high-profile visit to China late last year.

Mr Xi was welcomed by Mr Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the White House's Roosevelt Room on Tuesday morning.

Emphasising the importance of friendly ties between the two countries, Mr Biden said that while "we are not always going to see eye to eye", both nations would speak "candidly" about their differences.

"We have very important economic and political concerns that warrant that we work together," he said.

Mr Xi said in his remarks that he hoped the visit would "strengthen consensus... and deepen our friendship".

Mr Xi also will meet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. On Wednesday, he will travel to Iowa to meet his hosts from his first visit to the US in 1985 when he was a county official.

He is also scheduled to visit a farm in Iowa on Thursday before flying to Los Angeles, California, to meet business leaders there.

As well as comments focusing on the US role in the Pacific, Mr Xi said that what has happened over the last 40 years "tells us that a sound and stable China-US relationship is crucial for both countries".

Correspondents say the US-China relationship has become an increasingly delicate one over a series of security and economic issues.

Washington has been putting pressure on Beijing over the value of its currency and turning the heat up on what it has called unfair trade practices.

Frictions and differences

Pro-Tibet demonstrators in front of the White House in Washington. Photo: 13 February 2012

Pro-Tibet demonstrators held a rally outside the White House

In his comments, Mr Xi emphasised that China had taken ''active steps'' to address these concerns.

''Frictions and differences are hardly avoidable in our economic and trade interactions,'' he said.

''We must not allow frictions and differences to undermine the larger interests of our business co-operation.''

China, on the other hand, has voiced concern over the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and displeasure over arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

China and the US, Mr Xi said, had ''converging interests'' in the region and there was ''ample space'' for both in the Pacific Ocean.

"We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interest and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries," he wrote.

Mr Xi's trip also comes amid increased tension over protests and tightened security in Tibet.

Human rights activists staged a protest outside the White House, carrying banners that read "Tibet will be free".

Mr Xi is also scheduled to visit Ireland and Turkey, following the US trip.

**Courtesy of BBC News China**

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