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US, China Agree to Cooperate on Fighting Corruption, Terrorist Financing

  • Mary Alice Salinas

The United States and China have agreed to increase cooperation in fighting corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

One day after President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, held talks in Washington, the Foreign Ministry released a statement Saturday saying the two countries had found common ground on a series of issues.

"Both sides agree to enhance practical cooperation in corruption prevention, detecting embezzled public funds, exchanging evidence, combating transnational bribery, fugitives and illegal immigrant repatriation, narcotics control and counterterrorism," the statement said.

Xi's meeting with Obama on Friday and a subsequent dinner concluded the Chinese president's state visit to the United States. He then traveled to New York to address the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations and to take part in the annual opening debate of the U.N. General Assembly, beginning Monday.

Cyber tensions

During their meeting at the White House, Obama and Xi discussed topics that are a source of tension between the two countries, including cybertheft. The leaders agreed that their governments would not conduct or "knowingly" support cybertheft of intellectual property or commercial trade secrets.

"I indicated it [cybertheft] has to stop," Obama said at a joint news conference. "This is progress, but I have to insist that our work is not yet done."

Xi told reporters the two sides had reached consensus on the issue, and he stressed that Beijing was against cybertheft of any kind.

China "strongly opposes" hacking, he said, "but we need to stop confrontation and not politicize."

A White House release said the parties agreed to establish a "high-level joint dialogue mechanism on fighting cybercrime and related issues."

The U.S. has blamed China for a series of high-profile cyberattacks on U.S. government and business entities in recent years. China has strongly denied the allegations. A high-profile incident occurred earlier this year, when hackers broke into the Office of Personnel Management and stole the personal data of more than 21 million federal employees.

U.S. officials suspect China-based hackers are responsible, though the Obama administration did not publicly blame Beijing for the theft.

South China Sea

Another area of disagreement between the two sides has been China's controversial territorial claims in the South China Sea.

At Friday's news conference, Xi defended Beijing's claim to the area and said its construction work on artificial islands there doesn't target any country. He stressed that it "doesn't intend to pursue militarization" of the sea.

China's island-building efforts are taking place in the Spratly Islands chain, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The U.S. has demanded China stop those activities, calling them out of step with international norms and a risk for sparking conflict in the region.

Earlier this week, Xi told The Wall Street Journal that the Spratly Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times.

Commuters wearing masks make their way amid thick haze in the morning in Beijing February 26, 2014. China's north is suffering a pollution crisis, with the capital Beijing itself shrouded in acrid smog.

Commuters wearing masks make their way amid thick haze in the morning in Beijing February 26, 2014. China's north is suffering a pollution crisis, with the capital Beijing itself shrouded in acrid smog.

Climate change

A major area of cooperation highlighted Friday by Xi and Obama was climate change, with the Chinese leader unveiling a new cap-and-trade program meant to regulate China's worst-in-the-world emissions.

"I want to commend China for announcing that it will begin a ... market-based cap-and-trade system to limit emissions," Obama said.

During Obama's visit to Beijing last year, China and the United States both said they would reduce climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions — an agreement seen as a landmark moment for the world's two worst polluters.

A White House release Friday said Obama and Xi "reaffirm their shared conviction that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity, and that their two countries have a critical role to play in addressing it."

Human rights

On the thorny issue of human rights, Obama said he had "frank" discussions with Xi.

"I expressed in candid terms our strong view that preventing journalists, lawyers, NGOs and civil society groups from operating freely or closing churches and denying ethnic minorities equal treatment are all problematic, in our view, and actually prevent China and its people from realizing its full potential," he said.

Xi said the two sides have different "historical processes and realities'' but that China stands ready to hold dialogue on human rights issues with the U.S.

Ahead of the talks, several rights groups had called on Obama to not shy away from the issue during his meetings with Xi.

"It's a big and complicated relationship, and so there are a lot of topics vying for attention," acknowledged Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. "But we certainly think that the deterioration of the rights situation in China under Xi merits special attention."

President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, first lady Michelle Obama and Chinese first lady Madame Peng Liyuan wave from the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, Sept. 25, 2015.

President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, first lady Michelle Obama and Chinese first lady Madame Peng Liyuan wave from the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, Sept. 25, 2015.

Elaborate dinner

Late Friday, Obama welcomed Xi to the White House for a lavish state dinner with a powerhouse lineup mixing Hollywood, diplomacy and corporate America.

The 200-plus guest list included DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, prima ballerina Misty Copeland, and 92-year-old former diplomat Henry Kissinger.

But all of that was largely glossed over in the dinner toasts. Obama said that while some differences were inevitable, he wished that the American and Chinese people may "work together like fingers on the same hand in friendship and in peace.'' Xi, for his part, called the state visit an "unforgettable journey'' and praised the good will he felt from West Coast to East.

Guest chef Anita Lo, owner of Annisa in New York, served up a menu of wild mushroom soup, poached Maine lobster, grilled cannon of Colorado lamb, and poppyseed bread and butter pudding.

The White House said the the menu highlighted "American cuisine with nuances of Chinese flavor.''

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping wave on the North Portico with wives Peng Liyuan and Michelle Obama as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, Sept. 25, 2015.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping wave on the North Portico with wives Peng Liyuan and Michelle Obama as they arrive for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington, Sept. 25, 2015.


William Gallo and Sam Verma contributed to this report

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