Thursday, February 16, 2012
China’s Future President Xi Jinping Visits the United States
On February 13th, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping began a five-day tour of the United States with a visit to Washington D.C. Mr. Xi is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s president this fall, and this visit provided him an opportunity to comment on China’s future diplomatic and economic relationship to the United States—to Americans and Chinese alike. The visit comes just days after tensions arose between the two countries when China (along with Russia) blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution to condemn Syria.
In an address to business leaders, elected officials, and Chinese diplomats on Tuesday, Mr. Xi asserted that the U.S. and China must respect each other’s “core interests,” while working to promote trade with each other and cooperation with regard to how the countries address issues in Iran and North Korea. The phrase “core interests” has become a standard term for Chinese officials in recent months, meaning respect and support for China’s territorial sovereignty. Over the past year, more than two dozen Tibetan clergy have self-immolated and many Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese military in recent months during mass protests demanding independence. Another issue is Taiwan, an island China claims is part of the People’s Republic of China, which controversially purchased arms from the United States in March 2010. Mr. Xi urged the United States not to support either Tibet’s or Taiwan’s efforts to gain independence.
On a lighter note, Mr. Xi did acknowledge the strong economic ties between the U.S. and China, noting that trade between the two countries was expected to grow to $500 billion by the end of this year. He also noted that China is the United States’ fastest growing export market, despite the United States’ trade deficit with China reaching a record $295.5 million in 2011.
Mr. Xi’s speech came one day after Vice President Biden addressed Mr. Xi and business and political leaders in Washington. Mr. Biden told the leaders that China needs to: (1) lower trade barriers, including ending subsidies for its manufacturing industry so that China does not have a competitive advantage in the global marketplace; (2) allow its currency to appreciate so that Chinese exports are priced more competitively with American goods; and (3) enforce intellectual property laws to stop Chinese companies from exploiting the advances of U.S. technology companies.
Although no one knows for certain how Mr. Xi’s presidency will change China–U.S. relations, some are hopeful that his familiarity with the United States will usher in a more cordial relationship between the countries. Mr. Xi spent time in the U.S. early in his political career, his daughter attended Harvard University, and he regularly deals with U.S. officials and business leaders, giving him more interaction with the U.S. than any prior Chinese president.