Latest News

Obama offers congratulations to Xi

By Cheng Guangjin in Beijing and Zhang Yuwei in New York (China Daily)
Updated: 2013-03-16 07:02

Sending two officials to Beijing shows US 'prioritizes' China ties

The United States wasted no time reaching out to the new Chinese leadership following its election.

US President Barack Obama called President Xi Jinping within hours of his election to offer congratulations on Thursday.

Obama said he will dispatch two senior cabinet members to Beijing: US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will arrive next week and US Secretary of State John Kerry will come next month.

During the call Xi said, "As long as the two sides follow the spirit of mutual respect, openness and tolerance, China and the US will be able to achieve more in the Asia-Pacific region and to turn the Pacific into an ocean of peace and cooperation."

Analysts said the conversation shows that Obama is seeking a better relationship with China after reflecting on his first-term policies.

China-US relations are facing a historic opportunity to chart a course for future development, Obama said, according to a news release on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

The US hopes to work with China to promote steady development of bilateral ties and build a new type of relationship based on healthy competition, Obama said.

He also said the US is keen to strengthen cooperation with China to ensure security, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

Xi said China firmly maintains and promotes the development of China-US relations, and would like to work with the US in enhancing mutual trust, expanding cooperation, handling differences and maintaining high-level contact.

On economic and trade cooperation, Xi said the two sides should adhere to equal dialogue and candid communication, and should prevent politicizing economic and trade issues.

The White House confirmed that the US secretary of state will visit China in April as part of an Asia trip, during which he will also visit Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The US Treasury Department said the treasury secretary will visit Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet China's new leaders, discuss relations and explore opportunities for cooperation and growth.

Lew will "discuss efforts to level the playing field and create new opportunities for US workers and businesses", according to the Treasury Department announcement.

Experts said Lew's visit, announced soon after Xi's election, is to show that the US recognizes the importance of its interdependent relationship with the world's second-largest economy.

"This trip is certainly a way to court the new Chinese leadership - the timing is an acknowledgement and perhaps an offer of support," said Ann Lee, an economics professor at New York University and author of What the US Can Learn from China.

Zhu Zhiqun, a political-science professor at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, said, "The fact that this is Lew's first overseas trip, and that he will be the first major foreign visitor the new leadership in Beijing will receive, undoubtedly underscores the importance both sides attach to this growing relationship."

Lew, a chief operating officer of two Citigroup units between 2006 and 2009, was pressed by senators in his confirmation hearings to make a top priority of US claims that China has been slow in letting its currency float freely.

Lee, the NYU professor, said the secretary would be wise to avoid raising politically sensitive issues during this initial visit.

Douglas Paal, director of the Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, called the timing of Lew's trip "puzzling", though he said it may be a gesture to show China that the US remains "engaged".

"Issues supervised by the treasury are not now at the forefront of US-China relations. Far from it," Paal said.

Secretary Kerry's visit "suggests that the White House recognizes that economics are not the only issue when the Korean Peninsula, East China Sea and other areas such as cyberspace are growing hotter", Paal said.

China and the US have been embroiled in a row over cyber security in recent weeks, in addition to their long-standing frictions including trade and maritime issues.

Yuan Peng, director of the Institute of American Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the two countries should not let their differences "hijack" their relationship.

What Xi and Obama said in their telephone conversation shows that the Sino-US relationship may take a positive turn in Obama's second term, while his "rebalancing" toward the Asia-Pacific region during his first term has actually destabilized the region, Yuan said.

Obama's priority is in the US economy where it needs China's cooperation, and in the international arena where the two countries should also cooperate more, Yuan said.

Contact the writers at and