The U.S. vice president, Joseph Biden, left for China, the early stage of his first Asian tour where he will seek a good relationship with the next Chinese leader.
The tour of eight days which will also take him to Mongolia and Japan, is part of the strategy of the White House to regain its influence in the Asia-Pacific, one of the pillars of its foreign policy, and comes at a time of strong global economic turbulence, one of the issues that will dominate the trip.
But concern about the U.S. economy will not be the principal one for Biden this time. His main objective is to establish ties with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who clearly will take the reins of the country between next year and 2013.
Biden is scheduled to meet at least five times with Xi, at events including an official banquet in the Forbidden City, bilateral talks and informal dinner of Sichuan cuisine in a restaurant in Chengdu (highly unusual event for the formal Chinese bureaucracy.) They will also travel together to Duijiangyan, the area devastated in the earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008.
“One of the main objectives of the trip is to meet future Chinese leaders, establishing a relationship with Vice President Xi and deal with him and other Chinese leaders on the whole range of issues in Sino-US relationship,” said Biden’s National security adviser, Tony Blinken, on a conference call with reporters.
“To put it simple, we are investing in the future of the relationship,” Blinken said. Biden has spoken with Xi, but so far no U.S. official had spent so much time with the Chinese vice president, which is expected to take over leadership of the Communist Party next year and to become President the country in 2013.
The future leader is so far an enigma for the U.S., they do not know what positions this former provincial leader may take. He married a famous Chinese singer Peng Liyuan and their daughter Xi Mingze studies at Harvard University.
U.S. Vice President will also meet with the current Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, as well as entrepreneurs in Beijing, plans to deal with the Chinese authorities and human rights issues and nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. For its part, China will bring out, to be sure, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The lion’s share of the talks, however, probably links to economic issues. China wants to be reassured about their investments (around $ 1.2 billion) in U.S. debt, making China the largest holder of foreign bonds. Among other things, Biden will explain to the authorities of the Republic the new law raises the U.S. debt ceiling, the approval process in the midst of intense political wrangling caused serious concern in China.