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Friday, 17 February 2012

US-China heralded a new 'great power relationship'

China seeks ‘great power relationship’ with U.S. but warns against meddling in Tibet, Taiwan

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

China's Vice President Xi Jinping: “China welcomes the United States playing a constructive role in promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and at the same time we hope the U.S. side will truly respect the interests and concerns of countries in the region, including China.”hare

By Chris Buckley and Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON – China’s Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday offered deeper co-operation with the United States on trade and hot spots like North Korea and Iran, but warned Washington to heed Beijing’s demands on Tibet, Taiwan and other contentious issues.

“Sino-U.S. relations stand at a new historic starting point,” China’s expected next leader told U.S. business groups after meetings on Tuesday with President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials.

China and the United States should strive to create “a new type of great power relationship for the 21st century,” Xi said.

But he said the two powers also had to “strive to avoid misunderstandings and avert misjudgments” and should “truly respect each other’s core interests and major concerns.”

Xi’s visit to United States this week presents a chance for him to boost his international standing before his expected promotion to head of China’s communist party later this year and president of the world’s most populous nation in 2013.

Even as Xi continued his U.S. visit, Obama, at a campaign-style stop in Milwaukee, took aim at China’s trade practices, saying he will not stand idly by when American’s competitors “don’t play by the rules.” “I directed my administration to create a Trade Enforcement Unit with one job: investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China,” Obama told factory workers.

Xi met with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Harry Reid on Wednesday morning and after his speech was headed to Iowa for the next leg of his trip, which finishes later this week in Los Angeles.

Xi addressed a number of sore spots in the U.S.-China relationship, including Beijing’s currency policy.

Many U.S. lawmakers complain the yuan is significantly undervalued, giving Chinese companies an unfair price advantage that helped lift the U.S. trade deficit with China to a record US$295.5-billion in 2011.

Xi said currency reforms already taken by Beijing helped boost U.S. exports to China to more than US$100-billion in 2011 and has significantly reduced China’s overall trade surplus.

“China has become the United States’ fastest growing export market,” Xi said. “The trade surplus as a proportion of GDP has been falling from over 7% to 2%, at a level internationally recognized as reasonable.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner acknowledged on Wednesday that Beijing is gradually letting its currency rise, but not fast enough to please the United States.

“We think they have some ways to go, we would like them to move more quickly,” he told a congressional panel.


Xi is poised to become China’s next leader following a decade in which it has risen to become the world’s second largest economy while the United States has fought two wars and endured the deepest and longest recession since the Great Depression that sapped its resources.

“The world is currently undergoing profound changes, and China and the United States face shared challenges and shared responsibilities in international affairs,” Xi said.

“We should further use bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to enhance coordination between China and the United States on hotspots, including developments on the Korean peninsula and the Iran nuclear issue,” he said.

At the same time, he urged Washington not to support movements in Taiwan and Tibet for independence.

China deems the self-ruled island of Taiwan to be an illegitimate breakaway from mainland rule since 1949, and has warned that the island must accept eventual reunification.

In recent years, tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have eased as economic flows have grown. But Beijing remains wary of U.S. involvement in the issue, which it calls an internal affair.

In early 2010, the Obama administrations decision to move forward with proposed arms sales to Taiwan triggered vehement criticism from Beijing, including warnings of sanctions against U.S. companies involved in the sales. Those warnings petered out, but Xi made clear that Taiwan remains an acute concern for Beijing’s dealings with Washington.

Tensions over Chinese control of Tibet have flared in past months when a succession of protests and self-immolations have exposed volatile discontent. Chinese officials have repeatedly blamed those tensions on separatists or supporters of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Buddhist leader of the region.

Xi also acknowledged the Obama administration’s recent “pivot” toward Asia, but warned it not to push too far.

“China welcomes the United States playing a constructive role in promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and at the same time we hope the U.S. side will truly respect the interests and concerns of countries in the region, including China.”

© Thomson Reuters 2012

Xi sees new 'starting point' for US-China ties

By Andrew Beatty (AFP) 

WASHINGTON — Chinese heir apparent Xi Jinping heralded "a new historical starting point" for ties with the United States, wooing US business leaders with a glimpse of a more cooperative future.

Speaking during a lavish ballroom luncheon with the upper crust of corporate America, Vice President Xi described deeper Sino-American ties as an "unstoppable river that keeps surging ahead."

Glossing over the tumultuous twists and turns in 30 years of Cold War-dominated relations, Xi said interests had become ever-more intertwined. "It is a course that cannot be stopped or reversed," he said.

Xi welcomed Washington's interest in the Asia Pacific region, and said cooperation was needed on a range of challenges from North Korea to Iran, so long as China's interests are also respected.

Xi is on his maiden visit to the United States as a top official, a trip many hope will help close a chapter in relations characterized by mistrust and mudslinging, particularly in the commercial sphere.

As the tectonic plates of global trade have shifted in recent decades, China and the United States -- the world's two largest economies -- have frequently collided, jutted and bumped against each other, sometimes to damaging effect for both.

With Xi widely tipped to lead China from 2013 and Obama in a November re-election battle, the visit is being seen as a dress rehearsal for the next generation of US-China relations.

During the trip, Xi has worked US constituencies key to the bilateral ties: official Washington, corporate leaders and, in Iowa, a return to small-town America which he visited more than two decades ago.

His stops in Washington have included the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress and the US-China Business Council.

Throughout his trip Xi has received the trappings of a state visit -- even if he is only head of state in waiting.

In a broad-ranging speech that was short on specifics Wednesday, Xi told business leaders that increased understanding, mutual respect for core interests, trade and cooperation in international affairs should form the basis for relations.

"Over the past 33 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the friendship between our two peoples has deepened, mutually beneficial cooperation has expanded and our interests have become increasingly interconnected," he said.

At the luncheon Xi was introduced by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger whose secret trip to China in 1971 paved the way for the normalization of relations between Washington and Beijing.

The pair were flanked by a cadre of Chinese Communist Party officials, as well as executives from Coca Cola, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Procter & Gamble and Estee Lauder.

Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent expressed the cautious optimism felt in the US business community about future ties with China.

He described Xi's visit as "another important milestone toward building an enduring and constructive relationship between our two nations."

The Chinese vice president largely steered clear of specific policy pronouncements, but stressed the mutual benefits of trade, pointing out that 47 of 50 US states had seen their exports with China grow in the last decade.

Despite deepening ties, many Americans and their lawmakers angrily accuse Beijing of not playing by the rules.

They accuse China of keeping the value of its currency unfairly low to fuel inexpensive exports, which have catalyzed China's headlong dash toward becoming an economic superpower.

From June 2010, Beijing has allowed the yuan to rise 8.5 percent against the dollar, in part because of domestic inflation pressures -- making the yuan an increasingly dubious scapegoat for lopsided trade.

In the last decade, trade between the two countries has increased over 275 percent and is now worth half a trillion dollars a year.

But Chinese exports still make up 80 percent of bilateral trade, despite China joining the World Trade Organization a decade ago, leading to accusations of protectionism from US industry.

Xi, repeating a long standing gripe, said the US would need to reform its own trade restrictions on exports to China in order to right that imbalance.

"It is very important for addressing the China-US trade imbalance that the United States adjusts its economic policies and structure, including removing various restrictions on exports to China, in particular easing control on civilian high-tech exports to China as soon as possible," he said.

China has often blamed the US deficit on Washington's own rules on exporting sensitive equipment that could be adapted for military or intelligence use.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved

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