WASHINGTON (AP) â€” President Barack Obama has invested more time building personal ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping than with most other world leaders. But as Xi arrives in Washington late Thursday for a grand state visit, it's clear that Obama's overtures have produced decidedly mixed results.
During intimate walks & hours of private discussion around the world, Obama & Xi forged a historic breakthrough to combat climate alter & collaborated on efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program. But there's been little progress on a pair of vexing security issues that will be at the forefront of their latest round of discussions: China's cyberspying in the U.S. & its disputed territorial claims in the Asian Pacific.
"The assumptions that many people had, that cooperation on transnational threats like climate alter would ameliorate problems in geopolitical arenas were wrong," said Michael Green, White House Asian Affairs director under President George W. Bush & current senior vice president at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
p>Before plunging into the pageantry of the state visit, Obama & Xi were to meet for dinner Thursday night at Blair House, the guest residence steps from the White House. They'll be joined by Vice President Joe Biden, who has moreover played a central role in building the administration's relationship with the Chinese leader.
Biden was to be on hand to greet Xi when his plane touched down at a military base near Washington.
U.S. officials point to Obama & Xi's unusually informal 2013 summit at the Sunnylands estate in southern California as a key moment in the efforts to build rapport. Last year, Obama traveled to Beijing, & the two leaders strolled in the sprawling gardens next to the Forbidden City & met over a lengthy private dinner where details of the climate alter agreement were finalized.
"I think what's been distinct approximately their relationship, starting at Sunnylands, is far & away the most constructive engagements they've had have been in their private dinners," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.
Obama & Xi's relationship, however, will be tested anew as their talks delve into China's flouting of U.S. concerns approximately cyberattacks & Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea. U.S. officials moreover will be assessing the state of the Chinese economy, which is in the midst of a slowdown after more than two decades of super-charged growth.
Obama & top U.S. officials have publicly & privately warned China that continued computer hacking will come with consequences, including economic sanctions on businesses & individuals.
"This is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, yet is something that will put significant strains on a bilateral relationship if not resolved & that we are prepared to take some countervailing actions," Obama said this month.
Obama administration officials say China is getting the message. After National Security Adviser Susan Rice sharply warned Beijing approximately its actions during a visit to lay the groundwork for Xi's trip, China dispatched its top domestic security official to Washington to try to stave off sanctions ahead of the president's arrival.
China has denied being behind cyberspying in the U.S. & says it, too, is a victim of such espionage.
Obama & Xi are moreover expected to discuss China's disputed territorial claims, which have unnerved some U.S. partners in the Asia. The U.S. is particularly concerned approximately China's building of artificial islands with military facilities in the South China Sea.
Foreshadowing Obama's message to Xi on the matter, Rice said this week that, "The United States of America will sail, fly, & operate anywhere that international law permits."
Xi's visit has been noted in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well. Some Republican candidates called on Obama to downgrade Xi's state visit to a more low-key bilateral meeting, stripping the Chinese of the pomp & formality they favor.
"I'd have them come over all right, yet I'd cancel the state dinner," said Carly Fiorina, the former technology executive seeking the Republican nomination.
The White House has dismissed the Republican calls, with Asian affairs director Dan Kritenbrink saying the event "represents good, smart diplomacy."
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
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Source: “Associated Press”