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February 15, 2012

Chinese VP Concludes US Visit Friday in Los Angeles

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping concludes his U.S. visit Thursday and Friday in Los Angeles, with events expected to underscore the two nations' economic and cultural ties.

California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are scheduled to welcome Xi at the airport. The officials will then tour the terminal for the China Shipping company at the Port of Los Angeles.

On Friday, Xi will speak at the China-U.S. Economic Trade Forum and participate in other events focused on trade and investment. He will be joined again by Vice President Joe Biden, who has been his formal host during his time in the United States.  Xi will conclude his visit with a basketball game played by professional team the Los Angeles Lakers.

Xi's trip has drawn intense interest as he is expected to become China's president next year.

Despite an overall warm welcome, U.S. leaders have not turned away from sensitive issues. Biden and U.S. President Barack Obama raised human rights concerns with Xi during meetings at the White House Tuesday. On Wednesday, during Xi's visit to Congress, House Speaker John Boehner presented Xi with a letter concerning Gao Zhisheng, a prominent human rights lawyer in China who went missing nearly two years ago.

Senator John McCain says he brought up a wave of self-immolations by Tibetan monks protesting Chinese rule, as well as China's veto of a United Nations resolution on Syria. "As I just mentioned to the vice president, there has been enormous and dynamic economic progress, but we still have Tibetan monks burning themselves to death, we have Nobel Prize winners in house arrest," he noted. "And the continued propping up of North Korea, a brutal regime."

During a major policy speech in Washington Wednesday, Xi demanded that the United States respect Chinese claims to sovereignty over Tibet and Taiwan. He also called for more balanced economic ties between the two countries and closer cooperation on international problems, including tensions over North Korea and Iran.

Tibetan protesters have turned out at several events during Xi's four-day tour, including a stop in Iowa.

Xi visited an Iowa farming community Wednesday, 27 years after he first visited the area as a mid-level official.

The man presumed to be China's next president spent an hour sipping tea with residents in the town of Muscatine, and many said he remembered faces and recited events from his previous visit in 1985.

Later Wednesday, during a formal dinner in the Iowa state capital, Des Moines, Xi stressed his interest in person-to-person contacts. "I'm visiting the United States to help implement the important consensus that has been reached between President Hu Jintao and President Obama, and I'm here to build the China-US cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. And I want to engage with a broad cross-section of American society to help deepen the friendship between Chinese and American people," he stated.

In another move likely to be popular among American farmers, officials traveling with Xi announced plans to purchase $4.3 billion worth of U.S. soybeans. The 12-metric-ton purchase will be China's largest such deal to date.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.