Wednesday June 21, 2017

PRESIDENT XI CONFIRMS FIRST STATE VISIT TO U.S.

February 11, 2015

President Xi's last U.S. visit, in 2013. Photo: Xinhua

 

Last Friday, President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced that Washington had invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United States for an official state visit. Now, both parties have confirmed that President Xi’s visit will take place in September, after both countries’ leaders laid out possible topics of discussion in a telephone call. This will be President Xi’s first state visit to the United States since taking office; his last formal trip was in his capacity as vice president. Xi last met with President Obama in November after an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing. The two also met at the Sunnylands retreat in California during a more informal visit in June 2013.

Yuan Zheng, a senior research on U.S. foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that in addition to the planned state visit there are three or four other anticipated encounters between Xi and Obama this year, a measure of how seriously the two leaders are taking relations between their nations. Yuan believe that Washington will use Xi’s state visit to increase pressure on hot button issues such as cybersecurity, but that the main focus will be the Western Pacific region.

The announcement of Xi’s visit, as well as separate ones by the presidents of Japan, South Korea and Indonesia later this year “underscore our enduring and ongoing commitment to our Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy,” Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said. “We will use these visits to expand our economic, diplomatic and defense cooperation with all these countries.”

Recently, China and the United States have been working together on a range of issues, in particular a climate change pledge to reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions. True, there remain many contentious issues between the two nations, including the aforementioned cybersecurity as well as tensions between China and Japan and the Philippines, which are U.S. allies, over territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Yet Chinese experts have noted that the recently unveiled 2015 U.S. National Security Strategy rejected the notion of the “inevitability of confrontation” with China.

The Chinese outlook seems similarly positive; a report in China’s Global Times asserted that Xi’s trip will represent a “significant expression of friendly China-US ties.” What’s more, a commentary in the paper insisted that Beijing is not opposed to Washington’s much-discussed pivot or rebalance to Asia, adding that “stability in China-US ties is essential” for the success of the strategy. “Mr. Obama understands this, so inviting Chairman Xi to visit is to an important step to ensure such stability.” And although China protested last week against President Obama’s attendance at a prayer event with the Dalai Lama, China Net later praised the president for not directly meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, saying that this shows that the White House does not want the Tibet issue to hurt U.S-China relations.

While no date has been announced for the trip yet, both seem optimistic in terms of what it could mean for their ties. While pointing out that major differences between the two countries still exist, an article in the China Daily urges both sides not to let these “stand in the way of improving bilateral relations.” Other parties are similarly hopeful; former U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke told Xinhua News Agency on Saturday that “The world wants even more cooperation between the United States and China…because the world is looking for leadership of both two countries working together to solve many of the tough issues, from climate change to finding cures for diseases, to bringing peace and stability throughout the world and fighting terrorism.” Great expectations indeed. Hopefully Xi’s visit will not disappoint.

For more information on this topic, consult the following sources:

Reuters – “China’s Xi to Make First State Visit to U.S. as Both Flag Problems”

BBC – “China Media: U.S. Visit”

NY Times – “President Xi of China to Make State Visit to Washington”

Washington Post – “Chinese President Plans State Visit to U.S.”

People’s Daily – “Xi Plans to Make State Visit to U.S.”

China Daily – “China-U.S. Relations Should Grow Deeper in 2015, Ambassador Says”

People’s Daily (人民网) – “美国邀请习近平国事访问 系中美友好’最高表达'”

China Net (中国网) – “时评:奥巴马邀习近平访美是对中国改革新政的认可”

Compiled and edited by Emily O’Brien