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China Vice President Xi Jinping Kick-Starts 5-Day US Visit

02-13 11:48 Caijing
the timing of Xi’s visit is significant as China's transition and U.S. elections approaching later this year.

The forthcoming visit by China’s Vice President Xi Jinping to the United States, which starts today, will try to set the stage for a smooth Sino-U.S. relationship as China’s transition and U.S. elections approaching later this year, while dealing with trade and other issues, analysts say.

Set the tone at a critical juncture

In his five-day visit, Mr. Xi is schedule to meet President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as other top U.S. officials including U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Washington.

Mr. Xi goes to the midwestern state of lowa on Wednesday, a place he visited in 1985 as a young Chinese official. He concludes his U.S. visit with events in Los Angeles, California.

It is crucial to maintain a stable Sino-U.S. relationship in a critical year both for the two countries (2012), Mr. Xi said, when meeting U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last November.

There will be more uncertainties in the Sino-U.S. relations, as the United States accelerates its strategic shift towards Asia and elections approaching; the timing of Xi’s visit, therefore, is significant.

The visit will be mostly “an investment in relationship building”, said Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national security advisor.

“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,” Rhodes said.

Trade, disputed issues

The trade issue will still dominate the high-profile meeting as bilateral trade frictions increase. “Judging from the arrangement of Xi’s visit, the economic and trade issue will still be high on the agenda of the leaders’ meeting,” said Tao Wenzhou, a researcher with China Academy of Social Sciences.

“In Washington, they will talk on politics, while in Lowa agriculture, and in Los Angeles, Economy,” he said, “the latter two, in fact, are both trade issues.”

China’s trade with the United States, the country’s second-largest trade partner, rose to 446.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, a 16-percent growth over 2010 and a sharp increase from the 80.5 billion U.S. dollars ten years ago.

Trade frictions also increased in the year, especially in the second half, when the United States ratcheted up pressures on China on issues ranging from trade, exchange-rate and investment environment.

On the U.S. side, the Chinese market could play an important role in helping the United States promoting trade and jobs, a key factor that could guarantee Obama’s re-election.

The meeting will also cover disputed and sensitive topics, like the Iran issue, according to Li Haidong, a professor of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University.

The willing to talk about such issues could provide chances for reaching consensus, he said. “The Sino-U.S. relation is not only about a relation between countries or regions, more importantly, it is about a global strategic partnership.”

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