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Obama, Xi stir intrigue with desert oasis summit
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 5, 2013

XI MEETS OBAMA. In this file photo, US President Barack Obama shakes hands with then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 14, 2012. File photo by Saul Loeb/AFP

US inventor allowed out by China ahead of summit
Beijing (AFP) June 05, 2013 - A US inventor who was prevented from leaving China for nearly five years in a row over trade secrets has been allowed home, Beijing said Wednesday, ahead of a presidential summit between the two powers.

Hu Zhicheng, a Chinese-born US national, arrived in California on Monday evening, reports in the US say.

The inventor, who spent 17 months in prison and was released three years ago after charges were dropped, had an emotional reunion with his family after legal restrictions on him leaving China were lifted.

"What I can confirm is that the restriction measures taken by the Chinese judicial authorities against him leaving the country has been revoked according to law," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Hu, one of the world's leading experts in catalytic converters, was accused of stealing information relating to automobile emission control technology.

During his time in custody he was held in a group cell in a detention centre in the northern coastal city of Tianjin.

After being released, Hu said that airport border control agents blocked his exit when he tried to leave China.

US President Barack Obama will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday and Saturday in California.

An unusual sense of anticipation is building ahead of US President Barack Obama's first summit with new Chinese President Xi Jinping, at a secluded and storied California retreat.

Now that the anti-China fury of the US campaign season has stilled, and Xi has completed the complicated power dance involved in taking China's top state positions, the talks represent a new beginning of sorts in Sino-US statecraft.

Ditching the crushing formality of US-China summits, Xi and Obama will meet Friday and Saturday at the Annenberg retreat on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, California, a playground of past presidents and the powerful.

The meeting in the desert oasis will focus on testy issues between Washington and Beijing -- great power rivalry, claims of cyber spying, trade and currency disputes and North Korea's dangerous nuclear poker.

Both sides appear to hope that Xi and Obama will, amid the estate's olive trees and monarch butterflies, forge a personal bond of trust.

China watchers in Washington have been impressed that Xi, so soon after taking power, is eschewing the pageantry of a state visit, taking it as a sign of confidence from both the new Chinese leader and his nation.

"Part of the big story here is that (Xi) was willing to have a meeting in Washington, not a state visit, no 21-gun salute, no White House welcoming ceremony, no state dinner," said Jeff Bader, Obama's former top East Asia aide.

Chinese leaders previously felt that such protocol was important to showing they were respected abroad, said Bader, now with the Brookings Institution.

Had Obama and Xi not met now, they likely would have waited until September's G20 summit in Russia to cross paths -- a delay both sides appeared to worry would leave uncertainty festering too long.

Obama aides have privately confessed their boss's frustration with the scripted encounters he suffered with former Chinese president Hu Jintao.

They hope Xi, who one described as "fast on his feet," will relish a more unscripted exchange, and believe his familiarity with America, after a visit to Iowa 30 years ago with a Chinese farming delegation, could help.

It is unclear, though, whether the summit will feature an iconic moment to rival former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping grinning out from under a cowboy hat or Jiang Zemin at George W. Bush's ranch.

Despite the high hopes, and partly due to the swiftly organized program, the White House is predicting no breakthroughs.

But Elizabeth Economy, a China scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the summit could still score.

"President Obama and President Xi could discover some personal chemistry. They could find themselves personally in sync," she said.

US officials want to know more about Xi's vision for "great power" relations, as China's rise brings the risk of a clash with the American superpower.

"The focus is to avoid this so-called historic inevitability of conflict between the two," one US official said.

Joe Yun, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Washington was "trying to put flesh" on Xi's strategic ideas.

"When we talk about a new type of relationship, for us it means a more cooperative relationship. It means there would be understanding, cooperation and that we work together -- not just in the region, but outside."

Obama visited China in 2009, and granted Hu a state visit in 2011.

But progress was fleeting in his first term, as China chafed at the implications of Obama's diplomatic and military pivot to Asia.

On Friday, Obama and Xi will have informal chats, a bilateral meeting, including questions from reporters, and a private dinner. A morning of talks follows Saturday.

Blunt exchanges are expected on cyber security, following a string of reports that China-based operations are stealing US military and commercial secrets.

North Korea will also come up, with US officials encouraged China is becoming impatient with Pyongyang's saber rattling.

Obama is under pressure to tackle what US business leaders complain are China's predatory economic policies and the theft of US intellectual property.

"There is a myth out there that we can't get more aggressive with China because China holds the cards in this relationship," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

"If you look on balance as to who holds the cards, it's us and we just haven't been willing to play them."


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Smiling benignly as he strolls among schoolchildren or nods to sailors on the deck of a warship, President Xi Jinping epitomises China's new-found confidence as he heads into his first summit with Barack Obama. The US president leads the only country that outshines China in global power and influence, and which Beijing clearly sees as its single most important relationship - and major rival ... read more

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