Good start expected for summit

Updated: 2013-06-05 11:41

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily)

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A senior White House official expects this week's summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama to start positively from a high point.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting, told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon that the two leaders are expected to have a "substantive, candid and productive conversation" during the June 7-8 meetings in Sunnylands, California.

He said the presidents are due to make statements at the beginning of the summit on Friday afternoon and take questions from the press right after the first bilateral meeting that afternoon.

Their first bilateral meeting Friday afternoon will last for several hours, before the presidents have a private dinner.

On Saturday, Xi and Obama will continue their discussions, informally at first, before concluding at midday.

Rhodes described the Sunnylands estate, the Annenberg retreat in Southern California, as "the really perfect venue for the type of discussions we would like to have with the Chinese president."

"We think this is an important opportunity for President Obama and President Xi to meet early in President Obama's second term and shortly after President Xi took office in China," he said.

A broad agenda will be discussed, including economic issues, energy and cybersecurity, and climate change, according to White House officials.

"Such a wide-ranging, informal-setting discussion between the leaders will allow the leaders to cover the broadest possible agenda to forge a working relationship we will be relying on for years to come," Rhodes said.

Danny Russel, Obama's nominee for assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the smaller and informal format of the meeting will allow for real conversation and some candor.

"The fact the new Chinese leader agreed to an untested and unprecedented format for a meeting with an American president is, I think, encouraging," said Russel.

He said it is an opportunity to get to know the Chinese president the Obama administration is going to deal with over the next four years, to communicate Obama's priorities and concerns, and to hear Xi identify areas for cooperation and ones that both leaders see as priorities, such as denuclearization and economic growth.

Russel believes the meeting is important because it comes before the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July, an important bilateral mechanism to generate specific deliverables.

According to Russel, China's focus on a new type of relationship is a way to avoid the kind of rivalry between a rising power and established power that has been seen in history. He said there is understanding on both sides about avoiding such conflict.

Rhodes also said the two countries will build a relationship that is broad enough to encompass both cooperation and a degree of competition.

He cited the example of cooperation with China on issues relating to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in recent weeks, even as the US has been raising issues on cybersecurity.

Elaine Chao, the US labor secretary from 2001 to 2009, said China has demonstrated goodwill by creating a harmonious atmosphere before the summit as a reflection of Chinese culture.

"China has given the United States a great gift, and that is to emphasize to the leader of North Korea to resume talks over this country's growing nuclear weapon program," Chao told a foreign policy colloquium last week, attended by 130 Chinese students across US universities.

"So we hope that this is a gesture that Americans will recognize and understand."

Li Cheng, senior fellow and director of research of John L. Thornton China Center of Brookings Institution, told China Daily that US political and business leaders have high expectations for Xi, whose previous visit to the US left a very good impression.

(China Daily USA 06/05/2013 page1)