Obama hosts China's Xi Jinping

Wed, Feb 15, 2012, 00:00

PRESIDENT BARACK Obama received the Chinese vice-president, Xi Jinping, in the Oval Office yesterday, in the hope of forging a relationship with the man deemed likely to govern China for the next decade.

Alluding to his own re-election, which would keep him in the White House until 2017, Mr Obama said he wants to “look forward to a future of improved dialogue and increased co-operation in the years to come.”

Mr Xi is officially the guest of the vice-president, Joe Biden. He was also to see secretary of state Hillary Clinton, defence secretary Leon Panetta, Gen Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and members of Congress. He will fly to Iowa today and meet business leaders in Los Angeles on Friday, before beginning a three-day visit to Ireland on Saturday.

In remarks to journalists, US leaders were more blunt about tensions than Mr Xi. “It is absolutely vital that we have a strong relationship with China,” Mr Obama said.

The US trade deficit with China continues to grow, at $295 billion last year. It is a major source of friction and an issue in the presidential election campaign.

Mr Obama noted that “with expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities. . . 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, and that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the US and China, but around the world.” But he also warned that on human rights the US would continue to emphasise the importance of recognising the aspirations and rights of all people.

China recently angered the US by joining Russia in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution on Syria. While Mr Xi was inside the White House, protesters outside carried banners that read: “Tibet will be free.” In his public remarks, Mr Xi spoke only of mutual respect, interests and understanding.