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Obama, China's Xi to Hold Informal Meetings In California

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama hopes that his meetings with China’s new president, Xi Jinping, at an estate in California will help the two leaders build a personal relationship. Friday and Saturday’s summit is expected to cover cybersecurity, North Korea and trade.

The formal welcome that awaited China’s previous leader, Hu Jintao, in 2011 will be absent for Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Xi, when he was China's vice president, met with President Obama at the White House.

The more relaxed format of the summit near Palm Springs is intended to allow the leaders more time to talk and get to know each other, says Michael Auslin, at Washington’s American Enterprise Institute.

“And what they want to do is have the two leaders get out of the stuffy, formal, State Department-run type of banquets and, you know, large meetings and instead, sit down around a fire together, roll up their shirtsleeves and talk from the heart, you know, talk heart-to-heart,” Auslin said.

U.S. officials say Obama will confront Xi about charges that China is stealing information from American businesses, government agencies and the armed forces. China denies that its military is engaged in cyber hacking.

Cheng Li is a senior fellow at Washington’s Brookings Institution. “In terms of cybersecurity, there are a number of issues, including espionage, intellectual property rights, in terms of sabotage. But I think particularly that, in intellectual property rights, I think you have a lot of things to say, because that is the exact area that the U.S. is far ahead of China,” Li said.

Michael Auslin says discussing cyber-theft is a waste of time unless President Obama backs talk with action. “And they also will not pay much attention to a president of the United States who only has the card to play of saying, ‘I am really concerned about this.’ They know that. They would be much more likely to pay attention to us if we say, ‘There are real and lasting consequences for what you are doing,’” Auslin said.

The White House says trade will be high on the agenda for the leaders of the world’s two largest economies. Cheng Li says both sides have issues they want to discuss.

“We want to talk about intellectual property rights, talk about China’s protectionism, especially for the state-owned enterprises. But for China, they want to make sure that the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which they believe is to contain China, keep China out of international free trade,” Li said.

Presidents Obama and Xi are both concerned about the recent nuclear threats from North Korea, and Beijing has taken a tougher line against its longtime ally.

They will probably also address the conflict between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea and the Obama administration’s increased emphasis on military ties with the Asia-Pacific region.

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