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Xi's visit to boost Sino-US relations

2012-02-08 09:22 China Daily     Web Editor: Xu Aqing comment

Vice-President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to the United States will help China-US ties fly clear of US election year turbulence, experts said.

The visit, which starts on Monday, sends a strong signal that China places a high value on bilateral relations and wants ties to be stable, Jin Canrong, a Sino-US relations expert at Beijing-based Renmin University of China, said.

"That signal is especially important" amid Republican presidential hopefuls targeting China to win votes, the White House using currency issues to criticize Beijing and Washington generally playing up China's growth to increase the US presence in the Asia-Pacific region, Jin said.

The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Xi's visit is at the invitation of his counterpart, Joe Biden. No further details were given.

The US State Department announced earlier that the visit will include stops in California and Iowa.

Xi will meet US President Barack Obama in Washington on Feb 14, the White House announced.

China bashing is becoming ever-more frequent in this election year.

Mitt Romney, the leading Republican candidate, pledged to "clamp down" on Beijing as a currency manipulator and openly threatened a trade war.

In his recent State of the Union address, Obama singled out China for unfair trade practices. He also pointed out China's solar research facility and supercomputer as examples of global challenges facing the US.

A "trust deficit" between China and the US exists, Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said on Monday at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqu, a political document that established the foundation for relations.

"Each time the Sino-US relationship encounters problems there are voices that doubt the fundamentals of the relationship. There are those who want to overturn this relationship that can truly be called too big to fail," Cui said.

"We hope that Xi's visit will be used as an opportunity to enhance communication, expand cooperation and deepen friendship," he added.

Experts said that the influence of the election year on Sino-US ties will be temporary.

"The relationship is stable, with competition and cooperation coexisting," said Shen Dingli, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Xi's trip is part of the "institutional and frequent high-level visits" that reveal that the relationship is mature and not hostage to election cycles or any particular issue, Shen said.

The White House said on Monday that "a number of issues are always on the agenda when we sit down with the Chinese leadership, and that will be the case with this visit as well".

According to US media reports, Xi's stay in Iowa will include a reunion in Muscatine with friends he made during a trip to the state in 1985, a dinner at the Iowa Capitol and possibly a farm tour.

Xi's trip is an important visit that "will really help in the relationship", Christopher Hill, former US assistant secretary of state, told China Daily in Shanghai on Tuesday.

"There will be a lot of discussions and trying to know each other better," Hill, who once headed the US delegation to the Six-Party Talks, said.

"I would look for the trip to build on the positive relationship and see if both sides can anticipate some of the problems and prevent them from becoming bigger," Hill said.

The US strategic refocusing on East Asia has aroused speculation that the move is intended to contain China. Hill, however, said it is an attempt to secure long-term economic relationships in the region that are important to the US.

"China has emerged as one of the top economies in the world. I would hope that a renewed attention to East Asia will mean a renewed dialogue with China, and perhaps even a deepening of the dialogue to avoid strategic mistrust and misunderstanding," Hill said.

David Lampton, director of the China Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University, said that it is important that the emerging generation of Chinese leaders have a solid foundation in what they know of their American counterparts, to enhance future cooperation.

"It is particularly important for our leaders to keep our long-term interests in mind, not use inflammatory language and to place particular emphasis on dialogue in the next 12 to 18 months," Lampton said.

Experts said that Beijing and Washington have reached a degree of understanding to deal with election year friction.

Kenneth Lieberthal from the Brookings Institution said that the purpose of the trip is to give both parties an opportunity to get to know each other and develop some personal chemistry.

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