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Biden, Xi Discuss Upcoming US Visit

China's Vice President Xi Jinping speaks to students, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, December 23, 2011.

China's Vice President Xi Jinping speaks to students, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, December 23, 2011.

The U.S. and Chinese vice presidents have conferred by telephone ahead of next week's visit to the White House by China's vice president Xi Jinping, who is expected to assume his country's presidency in 2013.

The conversation came as the White House prepares to welcome Vice President Xi. He and President Barack Obama are expected to discuss a range of bilateral topics, including differences over trade, security issues in Asia, and other issues, including Iran and Syria.

Last year, the Chinese vice president hosted Vice President Joe Biden during his visit to China. Since then, Biden is reported to have taken over at least part of the China "portfolio" in the White House.

A White House statement described the conversation as a follow-up to discussions they had in China last August, and a preview of the agenda for Xi's visit to the United States next week.

It said they spoke about a broad range of economic and trade issues, and regional and global developments, and that Biden emphasized "the importance of building a relationship that addresses practical issues important to both countries."

It is unclear whether the conversation touched on all of the key differences over tougher U.S. and Western sanctions against Iran, and China's recent veto with Russia of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria.

China opposes increasing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. And the United States has expressed "disgust" with Chinese and Russian votes against a Security Council resolution that called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

In addition to his White House talks next week, Xi will meet with top U.S. officials and also is expected to meet with U.S. congressional leaders.

David Lampton, who heads the China Studies Program at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, says Xi's visit is intended to go beyond discussions of security and trade.

"Probably the two principal missions that Xi Jinping would have in his meetings with the [U.S.] president is economic cooperation, and [to] find out the strategic intentions of the United States," said Lampton. "Beyond that, I think Xi Jinping then wants to make friends with Americans, meaning not only Congress and the government here, but he is going to Iowa and California. And he will, I think, have the objective of putting a human face on China."

In recent remarks in Florida mentioning Xi's upcoming visit, Biden spoke in general terms about conversations he had with Chinese leaders last year, and about the American and Chinese economies.

Biden suggested it would be difficult for China to sustain its current rate of economic growth, although he said he hopes China continues to grow. He also repeated his criticism of China's one-child policy. Biden said it remains "a simple reality" that the United States is "better positioned than any other country in the world to lead the 21st century."