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Obama Friendly But Firm With China's Heir Apparent

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (left) speak during meetings in the Oval Office at the White House.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (left) speak during meetings in the Oval Office at the White House.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama has told visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping that China must play by the global economic "rules of the road" and that Washington will continue to stress its concerns about Beijing's troubling human rights record.
Obama was speaking on February 14 alongside Xi at the White House during a key first visit by the Chinese leader.

"With expanding power and prosperity also come increased responsibilities. And so we want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system," Obama said. "And that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the United States and China but around the world."
Obama also said that the United States will "continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the aspirations and rights of all people."
Xi, 58, is slated to become China's president in 2013. His Washington visit is being seen as a chance for him and Obama to get to know each other, and as an attempt by the U.S. administration to set the stage for future cooperation.
China's Vice President Xi Jinping in the Oval Office

China's Vice President Xi Jinping in the Oval Office

Obama described that cooperation as in the world's interest.
China has eclipsed Japan as the world second-largest economy and financial ties with the United States have increased, despite U.S. concerns over Chinese trade rule violations, intellectual property theft, and the value of China's currency. The renminbi is viewed by Washington as undervalued, boosting China's export-driven economy.
Bilateral relations are also marked by disagreement over human rights.
Washington has previously criticized Beijing's restrictions on civil liberties and its abysmal record on protecting the rights of minorities, including Tibetans and Uyghurs.
Washington will also look to convince Beijing that new U.S. military emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region is not a threat to China, with Beijing arguing its two-decade military buildup is not a cause for concern.
Obama said he welcomed China's "peaceful rise."

"I have always emphasized that we welcome China's peaceful rise, that we believe that a strong and prosperous China is one that can help to bring stability and prosperity to the region and to the world. And we expect to be able to continue on the cooperative track that we've tried to establish over the last three years," Obama said.
North Korea, Iran, and Syria also feature high on the agenda for talks.
Beijing is the largest buyer of Iranian crude, as the West looks to increase pressure on the Islamic republic's petroleum sector.
Obama told Xi that Washington was disappointed with Beijing's veto of a UN Security Council resolution that backed an Arab League plan urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quit.
Ahead of his meeting with Obama, Xi met U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden. Xi said his visit was meant to build on progress made during Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington a year ago.

"Before my visit, I made it clear that the purpose of the visit is to help implement the important consensus reached by the presidents of our two countries and to promote the building of a China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, and I would like to make efforts to this end," Xi said.
Xi was also due to meet with U.S. defense chief Leon Panetta and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Written by Richard Solash, with agency reports

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