Xi, Obama to convene first formal meeting
Updated: 2013-05-21 11:06
By Chen Weihua in Washington and Cheng Guangjin in Beijing (China Daily)
Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet US President Barack Obama on June 7 and 8 at the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage, California, their first official meeting since Xi assumed leadership in March.
The two previously met in February last year when Xi visited the US as China's vice-president at the invitation of US Vice-President Joe Biden.
Before arriving in California, Xi will pay state visits from May 31 to June 6 to three Latin American nations: Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing on Tuesday that the two leaders will hold in depth talks on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. "(We) believe it is of great significance in pushing forward the long-term healthy and stable development of China-US relations, promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world," Qin said.
The White House announced in a statement on Monday that the two leaders "review progress and challenges in US-China relations over the past four years and discuss ways to enhance cooperation, while constructively managing our differences, in the years ahead."
The two talked on the phone in March when Obama called Xi to congratulate him in March and exchange views on bilateral relations. Last month, Xi sent condolences to Obama over the bombings at the Boston marathon that killed three people and injured more than 200.
In the past two months, Xi has met several visiting senior US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey.
He also met with other influential US political and business leaders such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and a delegation of US governors.
During his meeting with Kerry last month, Xi described the US-China relationship as "at a new historical stage and has gotten off to a good start", saying that he and Obama had reaffirmed through their phone conversation the commitment from both sides to developing a cooperative partnership and build a new type of relations between the two countries.
Xi, who also became head of the Communist Party of China and military last November, drew a great deal of attention in February of last year during his five-day US trip, which included meeting American political and business leaders in Washington; a trip to farms in Muscatine, Iowa, where he first visited in 1985 as a county official; and a visit to Los Angeles to visit an international studies school, attend a China-US trade forum and watch a Lakers game.
To prepare for the upcoming meeting, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who has been deeply involved in US-China relations for the Obama administration, will travel to Beijing on May 22-28.
Carla Hills, the former US trade representative from 1989 to 1993 under president George H.W. Bush, and chair of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, believes the leaders should meet frequently to talk about a range of issues. "Relationships matter. Getting to know your counter-party makes it easier to reach mutually acceptable solutions to some of the difficult issues our nations face," Hills said.
Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations at New York-based Asia Society, describes Xi's "unofficial" trip as "good news". "It is a welcome sign that he is willing to forego the usual formalities to make this trip on short notice and get down to business."
He said the main goal for the visit should be a closer, more personal relationship between the new Chinese and American administrations, one that will enable both sides to more comfortably discuss and resolve difficult issues over the coming months. "The key challenge is to find a way for both sides to reassure the other about their long-term intentions, for the US to lower the temperature on suggestions that its 'pivot to Asia' is a hostile move, and for China to reassure the US on its commitment to finding a peaceful solution of the various island disputes and to working steadfastly to control nuclear proliferation in East Asia," he said.
Schell said there is much more shared interest between the two countries than is usually revealed. "The challenge is for both sides to dig down to that shared interest - bilateral trade and investment, climate change, nuclear proliferation, world health - in the hope that such recognitions will help stabilize this important bilateral relationship, even as inevitable problems continue to arise."
Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it is a necessity for Xi and Obama to develop substantial mutual understanding and personal trust. "It is significant, therefore, that they are seizing the first opportunity to meet together for an extended discussion," said Lieberthal, a senior director for Asia on the National Security Council from 1998 to 2000.
"This meeting will not seek to reach final agreements but rather to understand the priorities of the other side and the areas where it is feasible to seek cooperation on a new level," he said.
In a letter to Obama in January, Lieberthal suggested that Obama should engage with Xi early on in order to establish a strong personal relationship.
He believes the two leaders should at least meet four times a year for half-day summits, not one-hour bilateral on the margins of multilateral events.
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