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China's Xi meets skeptical US lawmakers
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 15, 2012

China should put own interests first: report
Beijing (AFP) Feb 15, 2012 - China should put its own interests above international relations, the state-run Global Times said Wednesday, during a closely watched visit to the United States by the country's leader-in-waiting.

The visit by Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to take command of China in a leadership transition starting this year, comes as Beijing faces international criticism for vetoing a UN resolution condemning violence in Syria, and for its human rights record.

But an editorial in the Global Times, which is known for its nationalistic stance, said the Asian power "does not need to satisfy the West at the expense of its own interests".

"China should adjust its thinking on what are 'good' relations. No matter whether Sino-US relations or Sino-European relations, the more favourable they are to China's national interests, the better," it said.

"To China, the US and Europe are important.... But China should view itself as the highest priority. This does not mean China should be arrogant, but rather ensure that it receives equal treatment from other countries through diplomacy."

Xi's US visit, which began Monday, has dominated the Chinese media in recent days as the country prepares for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition that begins later this year.

He was given a 19-gun salute with booming cannons at the Pentagon during his visit -- a rare honour for a mere vice president, reflecting the importance Washington places in its relationship with Beijing.

But US politicians have not held back from raising complaints about Beijing's currency value, saying it is kept artificially low to boost exports, or over human rights, including the communist state's growing detentions of critics.

China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping on Wednesday confronted US lawmakers skeptical about Beijing's pledges to improve its rights record, ease its grip on the yuan and boost military cooperation.

Xi, the vice president expected to assume the mantle of power next year in Beijing, made the rounds on Capitol Hill in an election year which has seen President Barack Obama's Republican foes accuse him of being soft on China.

The Chinese heir apparent's foray into the seat of US politics comes amid flaring suspicion of China on both sides of the aisle, fanned in part by a hesitant US economic recovery.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid smiled and shook hands with Xi at the start of a meeting with top senators, but there were none of the usual pleasantries before journalists were ushered out of the room.

Xi, who is expected to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2013, later crossed the Capitol to meet with Republican House Speaker John Boehner and other leaders.

The US list of concerns is crowded: from unfair trade practices, the allegedly undervalued yuan, industrial espionage and forced technology transfers to China's rapid military modernization, treatment of dissidents and stances on crises like Syria.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, used Xi's visit to accuse Obama of "one dangerous concession after another" to China.

"Responsible nations must be committed to confronting the Chinese regime on its dark human rights record," she said, specifically demanding the release of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has hardly been heard from since 2009.

"I also urge the administration not to cave to Chinese demands concerning US strategic alliances and military presence in the region," Ros-Lehtinen said.

But in a speech to business leaders after his meetings on Capitol Hill, Xi set aside the tensions and stressed that relations between the two powers were an "unstoppable river that keeps surging ahead" despite twists and turns.

"It is a course that cannot be stopped or reversed," he said, describing the ever more intertwined interests of the world's top two economies.

"Chinese-US relations are now at a new historical starting point in the second decade of the 21st century."

At the White House on Tuesday, Obama told Xi the United States wanted to make sure "everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system."

"That includes ensuring that there is a balanced trading flow not only between the United States and China but around the world," Obama said.

The US press in recent days has highlighted dramatic cases of alleged cyberespionage originating from China and targeting Western industries.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Senator John Kerry intended to raise with the Chinese the case of a Massachusetts wind energy company, American Superconductor Corporation, whose Chinese partner allegedly stole key technology.

The Wall Street Journal this week disclosed that hackers believed to be based in China penetrated a now bankrupt Canadian telecommunications company, Nortel, and had access to its entire system for at least a decade.

Political sentiment has risen so high in Congress that the Senate last October passed a measure threatening retaliatory duties against China for allegedly manipulating its currency, infuriating Beijing.

Boehner stepped in and blocked the measure in the House, citing the risk of a "trade war" if it passed, a reflection of the countervailing view that US and Chinese economic interests are too intricately intertwined to jeopardize.

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 Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney have been unsparing in their attacks on China, raising the temperature in relations.

China's recent veto of a UN resolution condemning the violence in Syria, and its reluctance to support sanctions against Iran, a major oil supplier to Beijing, also have added to the tensions.

Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, who is accompanying Xi on his US visit, told reporters late Tuesday "all people are calling for an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria. Yet if the Security Council takes one wrong step, it is likely to lead to more bloodshed instead of putting a stop to the bloodshed."

After his immersion in Washington politics, Xi heads later Wednesday to friendlier ground in Iowa. The midwestern farming state counts on China as a rapidly growing market for its pork, soybeans and other produce.

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Xi backs expanding US-China military ties: Pentagon
Washington (AFP) Feb 14, 2012 - China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping and US defense chiefs agreed on the need for expanding military relations between the two powers after talks at the Pentagon Tuesday, a US military spokesman said.

China's top brass has shown less enthusiasm for deepening security ties with the United States but Xi, the country's vice president, endorsed more military contacts in talks with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

Following an elaborate ceremony at the Defense Department welcoming Xi, the two sides discussed improving communication between their armed forces as a crucial element to the US-China relationship, Little said in a statement.

"They agreed on the need for enhanced and substantive dialogue and communication to foster greater understanding and expand mutual trust," Little said after Xi met Panetta and top US military officer General Martin Dempsey.

Citing recent reciprocal visits by the chiefs of each country's armed forces, Xi -- who earlier met President Barack Obama at the White House -- voiced support for an exchange of visits between Panetta and his Chinese counterpart, Little said.

Xi "urged both sides to maintain and strengthen practical exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries," while Panetta suggested humanitarian assistance and counter-piracy efforts "as productive areas for deepening cooperation," he said.

"Both agreed that the two militaries should discuss the specifics of a program of future exchanges."

Underlining the importance Washington attached to Xi's visit, the Pentagon staged a rare show for a visiting foreign dignitary, with a booming 19-gun salute, marching bands and honor guards from each branch of the armed forces.

China's military chiefs have often suspended contacts in recent years over Washington's arms sales to Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Anxious about China's growing military power, US commanders have long urged a more regular dialogue with their Chinese counterparts designed to avoid misunderstandings and potential crises.

But security ties remain tentative and have yet to gain traction.

Before the meeting, Panetta called for more "transparency" from China's military and said forging a better security dialogue would ensure "stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region."

"The United States and China are Pacific powers and we welcome the rise of a prosperous and successful China that plays an active and responsible role in regional and global security affairs," Panetta said.

"To build a cooperative partnership, it is essential that we enhance mutual trust and understanding between our two military establishments," Panetta said.

Xi said he had travelled to the United States "to deepen mutual trust" and to promote a "cooperative partnership" between the two countries.


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Xi invites Obama to visit China: official
Washington (AFP) Feb 14, 2012
China's likely next leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday invited President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to visit his country, during Oval Office talks on Tuesday. The White House did not say whether Obama would make such a visit, though he seems unlikely to travel to China this year as he plans only limited foreign trips ahead of his fight for reelection in November, while China's power elite ... read more

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