BEIJING - United States Vice-President Joe Biden is set to arrive in Beijing late on Wednesday to begin his China tour, during which he is expected to offer assurances about the struggling US economy.
The five-day tour, which will also bring Biden to Mongolia and Japan, will be the first one by him to East Asia in his capacity as Vice-President and will also see the top official of the US cement his country's back-to-Asia strategy.
Biden, who is visiting on the invitation of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, will hold formal meetings with his Chinese counterpart and attend a China-US business leaders meeting during his stay in Beijing.
He will also meet Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao before being accompanied by Xi to Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan province, where the duo will visit sites reconstructed on ruins jolted by the deadly earthquake on May 12, 2008. Biden is also expected to deliver a speech in Chengdu.
Biden is the first high-ranking US official to visit China since the US domestic debt crisis, which drew criticism from Beijing.
The US Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed earlier this month on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and cut the deficit, but the divisive political debate helped prompt a downgrade of the US credit rating from Standard & Poor's.
Analysts and officials said Biden will focus heavily on economic issues during his trip. China has invested more than $1.2 trillion in US Treasury bonds and has been critical of the handling of the recent US debt ceiling debate.
"As America's biggest foreign creditor, China wants the US to make sure the safety of its $1.2 trillion of Treasury debt," Jin Canrong, a professor focused on American Studies from Renmin University of China, told China Daily.
The US side will also try to reassure its creditworthiness and demonstrate its capacity and commitment to tackling fiscal challenges, according to Liu Qing, director of American Studies Department, China Institute of International Studies.
"The Chinese are going to be extremely interested in getting his take on what has occurred and what will occur in the US management of its deficit," Reuters quoted Kenneth Lieberthal, a foreign policy expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, as saying.
"I think (there will be) an effort to reassure the Chinese that, despite the downgrade in the credit rating, the US is still strong, that the country will recover, and that China's dollar assets are safe," Reuters also quoted Paul Haenle, the director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing, as saying.
Analysts also said that winning more business opportunities from China to help realize the 2010-2015 double-export goal set by Obama is a focus of Biden's trip.
According to US statistics, the United States exported more than $110 billion worth of goods and services to China last year, which helped create more than 500,000 jobs in the US.
It has also been widely speculated that Beijing will press Biden on a pending decision whether to sell advanced F-16 fighters to Taiwan.
Although the White House said earlier that the US will not discuss with Beijing its arms sales policy, Jin said Biden will surely let Beijing know what the US is thinking because the Taiwan question has always been its biggest concern.
According to Jin, Biden will also discuss a wide range of international and regional issues with his Chinese counterpart and other Chinese officials, including the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
The New York Times said in a recent article that Biden's China visit is primarily to consolidate ties with Chinese leaders.
Biden's visit will take place 32 years after his first trip in 1979 as a member of the first US delegation to visit China following the normalization of China-US relations.
Xinhua, Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.