The weeklong visit to the United States of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, hosted by Vice President Biden, should be viewed as part of a broader effort by the United States to focus American foreign and economic policies on the Asia-Pacific region, a senior U.S. national security official says.
“A critical part of our Asia-Pacific policy is the very deep relationship and cooperation that we have with China on a range of areas,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said February 10.
“We’ve invested an extraordinary amount of time and energy in the U.S.-China relationship, which can be both cooperative on the range of issues where we work together and, at times, competitive on issues where we differ and where we’re reaffirming the rules of the road that all nations must abide by,” Rhodes added during a White House briefing February 10 in advance of Xi’s visit to Washington February 13.
Biden is hosting Xi after the two met in Beijing in August 2011. The planned reciprocal visits between the two vice presidents were announced by President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao during the latter’s state visit to Washington last year.
While in Washington, Xi will meet with Obama, Biden and other senior U.S. officials and Cabinet members to discuss a wide range of economic, trade, security and military issues, as well as human rights and regional and global challenges.
After a daylong visit to Washington February 14, Xi travels to the state of Iowa for meetings with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Governor Terry Branstad, who was also governor when Xi visited the state in 1985. Xi is expected to travel to the town of Muscatine, where he visited when still an agricultural official in Hebei, Iowa’s sister province. Branstad visited Xi last September in Beijing. Xi then travels to Los Angeles where he will resume talks with Biden, the White House said.
Rhodes also said that a significant aspect of this visit is the opportunity to develop stronger ties with the future leader of China. Xi is expected to become the next president of China in March 2013 following a meeting of the National People’s Congress in the fall this year.
“We look at this visit by Vice President Xi as part of the policy continuum, which is in part predicated on the importance of getting the U.S.-China relationship right, which in turn is central to the president’s Asia policy,” said Daniel Russel, who is senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council. “And that involves engaging China, and especially engaging Chinese leadership in ways that increase the quality of our communication and elicit better cooperation,” he added during the February 10 briefing.
Russel said that the way the United States deals with China affects its influence and leadership in Asia because this bilateral relationship is closely watched and regarded by other nations of the region. U.S. security advisers told reporters during the briefing that the relationship affects every other nation in the region. U.S. relations with China also include significant security issues in the Middle East, as well as global economic issues and significant security issues in Northeast Asia, the U.S. officials said.
ASIA-PACIFIC REGION AN ADMINISTRATION PRIORITY
The United States under the Obama administration has been working to strengthen its relationship with the regional architecture through the East Asia Summit, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which Obama hosted last year in Hawaii. Obama also completed a trip across the region in November 2011 to expand U.S. trade relationships, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and reaffirm U.S. security commitments, which are seen as a significant source for stability and security in the 21st century.
An additional component is strengthening relationships — and especially high-level relationships — with President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao, Russel added. “It helps us to build confidence and avoid surprises in either direction,” he said.
Russel said the meetings between Biden and Xi will allow the United States to make clear the strength of U.S. views on key issues, and allow Xi to see the United States anew. He added that the expectation is that Xi “may well become head of the [Chinese Communist] Party” in the fall this year, and then president of China in the spring next year.
Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economics, said the economic relationship with China is one of the most important the United States has in the world. Last year, U.S. exports of goods to China exceeded $100 billion, and have been growing almost twice as fast as U.S. exports to the rest of the world, he added.
“And over the last few years, we have begun to make progress on a whole range of issues between us, including the exchange rate, which has been appreciating since June 2010,” Froman told reporters. “We helped secure China’s commitment, both in the G20 [Group of 20 advanced economies] and elsewhere, to reduce its current account surplus, to shift its economic growth model toward greater domestic demand.”
China also has agreed to remove certain discriminatory procurement and business innovation policies and to strengthen enforcement of intellectual property rights, he added.
Xi arrives in Washington February 13, but the first full day of talks is February 14, said Antony Blinken, who is Biden’s national security adviser. Biden will welcome Xi to the White House for official meetings with senior Cabinet officials, followed by smaller meetings involving Biden and Xi and some senior advisers. Those meetings will be followed by a meeting in the Oval Office of President Obama, Biden and Xi, Blinken added.
Xi will be hosted at a luncheon February 14 with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Biden at the Department of State. Guests will include a cross-section of prominent Americans from government, business, nongovernmental organizations, academia and the arts. Xi, who is also vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, then will visit the Pentagon for talks with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss U.S.-China military-to-military affairs.
Biden and Xi will take part in a round-table discussion with American and Chinese business executives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is across Lafayette Park from the White House. Before leaving Washington, Biden will host Xi at a dinner at the vice president’s official residence — the Naval Observatory.
Xi will meet with members of the U.S. Congress early on February 15 before leaving for Iowa. He will be joined on this part of his visit by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke. A formal dinner with Governor Branstad and the delegation will be held in Des Moines.
Vilsack will host Xi and Chinese and American officials at the U.S.-China Agriculture Symposium in Des Moines on February 16th, Blinken added. And on February 17, Biden rejoins Xi in Los Angeles for private meetings. Xi and Biden also will visit a local school in Los Angeles and be introduced to students who are studying Chinese. This is intended to emphasize people-to-people ties, especially through education, Blinken said.