Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden pledged the two nations’ commitment to cooperation Tuesday, ahead of talks with President Barack Obama.
Biden is Xi’s formal host during his visit to Washington. The two men were meeting ahead of the Oval Office discussion with President Obama.
Biden said he and the president have been determined to renew and intensify the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific region and strengthen ties with China in particular. He called the U.S.-China relationship one of the most important in the world. He said the two nations will not always see things the same way, but have very important economic and political concerns that warrant working together.
Xi, China’s presumed leader-in-waiting, said he hopes to engage with a broad cross-section of American society during his visit and deepen the nations’ friendship. He said he looks forward to an in-depth and candid exchange of views.
Xi is expected to call for confidence-building measures between the two countries. Other likely topics for discussion include economic irritants, mutual defense build-ups and human rights issues, including a series of self-immolations by Tibetan monks.
After lunch at the State Department hosted by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Xi is scheduled to visit with military officials at the Pentagon and then hold talks with American and Chinese business leaders.
Xi arrived Monday at an air base outside Washington, where he was greeted by senior U.S. officials. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said Xi’s visit is a chance to discuss disputed trade and security issues.
“This will be an opportunity for the leaders of both countries to really sit down and talk about our differences, but really focus on the common interests that both the U.S. and China have,” said Locke.
In a statement upon his arrival, Xi said China and the U.S. have “extensive common interests,” and that he hopes his visit can help improve bilateral relations.
Xi later said at a meeting with several former senior U.S. officials that he hopes the U.S. can view China in an “objective and rational way.” He said Washington should adopt “concrete measures to promote mutual trust” between the two countries.
But some in the U.S. are calling for Obama to take a hard line with Xi on human rights and other issues.
As Xi arrived in Washington Monday, scores of Tibetan protesters marched through the city, chanting slogans against China and holding pictures of Tibetans who recently self-immolated in protest of Chinese rule.
Leonard Leo, head of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, urged the president to publicly side with those “peacefully seeking fundamental freedoms” in China.
Xi’s visit will also serve as an opportunity for Washington to convince Beijing that its “pivot” in U.S. military power towards Asia is not meant to contain the rise of China.
In an interview published Monday in The Washington Post, Xi warned against a U.S. military build-up in Asia, even while maintaining that there is “ample” room in the Pacific region for both countries.
On economic matters, Xi said China will continue to address a number of legitimate U.S. concerns, including protection of intellectual property, China’s currency exchange rate, and the establishment of a transparent, rule-based investment environment.
After his day of meetings in Washington Tuesday, Xi is due to travel Wednesday to the Midwestern state of Iowa and then to California before returning to China on Friday.
Xi is expected to take charge of China’s ruling Communist Party later this year and will likely succeed Hu Jintao as Chinese president in 2013.