U.S. President Barack Obama will welcome China’s Vice President Xi Jinping to the White House on Tuesday. Xi is expected to assume the presidency of China next year and the talks come amid major challenges in the U.S.-China relationship.
In Beijing, during the month of January, current and former U.S. and Chinese officials marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China that paved the way for normal relations between the two countries.
Among those present was Vice President Xi Jinping, who provided a glimpse of the complex issues involved in Sino-American relations.
"We have maintained close dialogue in countering global challenges such as the international financial crisis and climate change, and dealing properly with regional hotspot issues, including the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Middle East and South Asia," he said.
Xi is expected to become China’s Communist Party chief later this year and assume the country's presidency in 2013.
He arrives at the White House about a year after a state visit by current Chinese president Hu Jintao. In welcoming President Hu last year, President Obama emphasized the importance of cooperation between the Untied States and China.
"We have an enormous stake in each other’s success, in an interconnected world, in a global economy - nations, including our own, will be more prosperous and more secure when we work together," said Obama.
But there are major strains over trade and currency policy, human rights, Iran and North Korea. China, along with Russia, recently vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria that Washington supported.
In his State of the Union Address last month, President Obama mentioned China when he vowed to crack down on unfair trade practices.
"The president is genuinely very angry at China's not playing by the rules, at domestic subsidies - all kinds of other things that put U.S. firms and other global firms at a disadvantage and work to China's unilateral advantage," said Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at The Brookings Institution here in Washington.
China is concerned about the United States enhancing its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, which is widely seen as a counterweight to growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
David Lampton, head of the China Studies Program at The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said Xi Jinping might offer further reassurances about China’s intentions when he visits the White House.
"I am fully confident after having just been in Beijing and talked to people there, they understand [that] alarming the rest of Asia is not good for them. And I believe Vice President Xi's visit here in part is to reassure the world about the continuity that as Chinese power grows, it will not become more unreassuring and more threatening," said Lampton.
From Washington, Xi Jinping is expected to travel to the Midwestern state of Iowa and then to California before returning to China.