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Xi sees new 'starting point' for US-China ties
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.

Chinese heir apparent Xi Jinping heralded "a new historical starting point" for ties with the United States Wednesday, wooing US business leaders with a glimpse of a more cooperative future.

Speaking during a lavish ballroom luncheon with the upper crust of corporate America, Vice President Xi described deeper Sino-American ties as an "unstoppable river that keeps surging ahead."

Glossing over the tumultuous twists and turns in 30 years of Cold War-dominated relations, Xi said interests had become ever-more intertwined. "It is a course that cannot be stopped or reversed," he said.

Xi welcomed Washington's interest in the Asia Pacific region, and said cooperation was needed on a range of challenges from North Korea to Iran, so long as China's interests are also respected.

Xi is on his maiden visit to the United States as a top official, a trip many hope will help close a chapter in relations characterized by mistrust and mudslinging, particularly in the commercial sphere.

As the tectonic plates of global trade in recent decades, China and the United States -- the world's two largest economies -- have frequently collided, jutted and bumped against each other, sometimes to damaging effect for both.

With Xi widely tipped to lead China from 2013 and Obama in a November re-election battle, his visit is being seen as a dress rehearsal for the next generation of US-China relations.

During the trip, Xi has worked US constituencies key to the bilateral ties: official Washington, corporate leaders and, later, a return to small-town America which he visited more than two decades ago.

His stops in Washington have included the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress and the US-China Business Council.

Throughout his trip Xi has received the trappings of a state visit -- even if he is only head of state in waiting.

In a broad-ranging speech that was short on specifics Wednesday, Xi told business leaders that increased understanding, mutual respect for core interests, trade and cooperation in international affairs should form the basis for relations.

"Over the past 33 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the friendship between our two peoples has deepened, mutually beneficial cooperation has expanded and our interests have become increasingly interconnected," he said.

At the luncheon Xi was introduced by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger whose secret trip to China in 1971 paved the way for the normalization of relations between Washington and Beijing.

The pair were flanked by a cadre of Chinese Communist Party officials, as well as executives from Coca Cola, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Procter & Gamble and Estee Lauder.

Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent expressed the cautious optimism felt in the US business community about future ties with China.

He described Xi's visit as "another important milestone toward building an enduring and constructive relationship between our two nations."

The Chinese vice president largely steered clear of specific policy pronouncements, but stressed the mutual benefits of trade, pointing out that 47 of 50 US states had seen their exports with China grow in the last decade.

Despite deepening ties many Americans and their lawmakers angrily accuse Beijing of not playing by the rules.

They accuse China of keeping the value of its currency unfairly low to fuel inexpensive exports, which have catalyzed China's headlong dash toward becoming an economic superpower.

From June 2010, Beijing has allowed the yuan to rise 8.5 percent against the dollar, in part because of domestic inflation pressures -- making the yuan an increasingly dubious scapegoat for lopsided trade.

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 Chinese exports still make up 80 percent of bilateral trade, despite China joining the World Trade Organization a decade ago, leading to accusations of protectionism from US industry.

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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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China's Xi meets skeptical US lawmakers
Washington (AFP) Feb 15, 2012
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 ... read more

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