Vice President Xi Jinping, who is slated to take over the helm of the Party from Hu Jintao later this year, will visit the U.S. next week. His visit comes as tensions with the U.S. are heightened over a number of issues: China’s veto of a U.S. Security Council resolution calling on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to step down; disputes over territory in the South China Sea; and, possibly, an apparent bid for asylum at the U.S. Consulate by Chongqing’s high-profile former police chief Wang Lijun. A Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated that the visit will provide an opportunity to smooth out any rough spots in the relationship. From the Washington Post:
“The level of mutual trust between China and the U.S. is lagging behind what is required for further development of our bilateral relations,” Cui Tiankai said Thursday.
“Vice President Xi’s visit will present a very important opportunity to enhance” that trust, he said.
Washington and Beijing have differed in the past few weeks on a range of global issues, including sanctions on Iranian oil exports, dealing with North Korea, territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea and, most recently, China’s decision to join Russia in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Cui also indicated that China was not likely to change its position on Syria. From Reuters:
But Cui, whose portfolio covers steering relations with Washington, played down the potential for ructions in Washington over Syria while also defending the veto decision.
“Mutual accusations have little value and don’t solve problems,” Cui told the briefing.
“China believes that in international relations one should not rashly use force or the threat or force, and one shouldn’t use external intervention to achieve regime change in another country,” he said.
“When necessary, China will of course use its veto; when China has to show its hand, China will certainly show its hand. Nobody should have any illusions about that,” he said.
On his visit, Xi will visit the White House while also going off the beaten track to return to Iowa where he spent time in 1985. From China Daily:
Back in 1985, Xi, then a local official in Hebei province, led a delegation to Iowa to learn about agricultural technologies. Hebei and Iowa cemented province-state ties in 1983.
Xi’s five-member delegation received a warm welcome in the Midwestern state and developed an apparently close relationship with the people of Iowa over their two-week stay.
“The reason (Xi decided to revisit Iowa) is because of the friendship,” Chinese Consul General of Chicago Yang Guoqiang said at a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday.
“The hospitality of Iowa and the Midwest is quite well-known among Chinese people because of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit last year and the story of Xi.”
Details of Vice President Xi’s visit are still being finalized—and the schedule could change at any time—but officials are making arrangements for him to attend the game in Los Angeles on the last day of his visit, possibly with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, these people said. He would be the first Chinese leader to attend an NBA match.
The idea originated from the Chinese side, these people said, and appears to be another attempt to establish an image for Mr. Xi at home and overseas as a relatively open and confident leader who feels comfortable in a public setting, and in dealing with the U.S.
Mr. Xi, who arrives in Washington on Monday, is also taking the unusual step on Wednesday of going back to see a a family in Muscatine, Iowa, that he stayed with during a visit there as a young party official in 1985.