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US Officials Outline Broad Agenda for Xi Jinping Visit

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Joe Biden [no shown] attend a meeting with US and Chinese business leaders at the Beijing Hotel in Beijing, China, August 19, 2011.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Joe Biden [no shown] attend a meeting with US and Chinese business leaders at the Beijing Hotel in Beijing, China, August 19, 2011.

White House officials say next week's visit to the United States by China's vice president Xi Jinping, who will meet with President Obama on Tuesday, will highlight a cooperative yet competitive relationship, while also dealing with key differences over such issues as trade and human rights.

Briefing reporters, the White House officials say the visit by the man expected to become China's president next year will cover the full range of political, economic, security and human rights issues.

Ben Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, said it should be seen in the larger context of efforts by President Obama to re-focus U.S. policy on the Asia-Pacific region.

"From the beginning of this administration, the president has really made a concerted effort to focus American foreign and economic policy on the Asia-Pacific region."

Full slate of events

Xi arrives in the U.S. on Monday, and on Tuesday begins a day of meetings and events, including two hours of discussions with his formal host, Vice President Joe Biden, and Oval Office talks with President Obama.

Vice President Biden, who had extensive talks with Xi in China last year, and Secretary of State Clinton, host a lunch for him at the State Department. He then meets with military officials at the Pentagon.  

Officials, as well as China and Asia experts, say that will be particularly important in addressing Beijing's concerns about Obama's decision to focus more on security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Xi will have a roundtable discussion with American and Chinese business leaders, where he no doubt will hear concerns U.S. businesses have about Chinese trade practices and the importance of what the president has called a "level playing field."

Free, fair trade to be emphasized

"It is important for the Chinese leadership to hear directly from our business community, both the promise but also the problems of doing business with China, and also for them to hear from us about the critical importance of the level playing field," said Tony Blinken, deputy assistant to the president and national security advisor to Biden.

Since Xi is not yet China's head of state, the visit will be mostly "an investment in relationship building" as Rhodes put it in a conversation with reporters.

Aside from some business agreements expected to be announced, the visit is likely to be short on actual "deliverables," or major breakthroughs in key areas in the relationship.

The U.S. and China have disagreed on issues such as sharpening global sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.  Washington and key allies were upset by China's veto with Russia of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria.

Rhodes said the U.S. believes China shares the view that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon, and said China has not contributed to undermining of sanctions.

Focusing on human rights, leadership

Daniel Russel, special assistant to the president and senior director for Asian Affairs, said the Xi visit is part of the process of engaging China's leadership, and addressing concerns other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have about the relationship.

"The way that we deal with China affects our own influence and leadership in Asia because this relationship is something that the other countries in the region care a great deal about."

On human rights, Russel said the U.S. does not "sacrifice important issues for the sake of having a comfortable visit."  

While not specifying how rights issues will come up during the Xi visit, Russel said part of the U.S. goal is for Xi to understand U.S. concerns, including over tensions in Tibet and [China's] Xinjiang province, and about freedom of speech and religion.

Xi goes to the midwestern state of Iowa on Wednesday, a place he visited in 1985 as a young Chinese official. He concludes his U.S. visit with events in Los Angeles, California and what officials say will be additional informal talks with the vice president.

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