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Xi's trip so far: A tale of two Washingtons

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)

Updated: 2015-09-25 11:29:11


Xi's trip so far: A tale of two WashingtonsAfter spending two days in the northwest state of Washington, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington, DC, on Thursday afternoon for a two-day state visit.

Anxious journalists who had been waiting for some two hours before the Air China plane appeared in the distance of a blue sky around 5:19 pm.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were greeted by a military honor guard and band at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, about 20 miles from the White House, and not surprisingly US Vice-President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden were leading the US welcoming delegation.

Most China observers in the US regard Biden as having the best relationship with Xi in the Obama administration. While Biden has not decided whether to join the 2016 presidential race, some China observers believe that the White House needs someone like Biden to be in charge of the US-China relations. There has been a feeling among some that the current Obama administration lacks someone like Hank Paulson, Brent Scowcroft or Henry Kissinger to direct this important bilateral relationship.

Biden accompanied Xi in February 2012 when Xi came for a visit as China's vice-president. Xi also spent long time with the Bidens when they visited China in August 2011.

Both Xi and Biden were all smiles when they shook hands. Xi was also greeted by other members of the US welcoming delegation, which included Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Daniel Russel and US Ambassador to China Max Baucus.

This is Xi's seventh trip to the US and the first state visit as Chinese president.

Personal relationships count a lot between top leaders of two nations when mistrust has been cited as a major cause of problems in the relationship.

That is also probably why every summit has also started with a private dinner, so the two top leaders, President Xi and President Barack Obama, could spend some time not going through the list of a formal agenda, but have an in-depth talk about each other's world views and the vision they have for their countries.

National anthems of China and the US were played in the welcome ceremony at the air base on Thursday before Xi's motorcade left for the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel in the center of Washington.

It is a very different Washington from the one he had spent the previous two days in. The northwestern state is the gateway for US trade with China. Major local businesses, such as Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft, all have huge business in China.

Xi's activities there were mostly about business and trade and people-to-people exchange. He met governors, business leaders, tour companies and visited a high school.

Strong economic ties and people-to-people exchange have long been regarded as the ballast for the bilateral relationship. Trade between the two countries has approached $600 billion each year. There are some 275,000 Chinese students enrolled in US colleges and universities and the number of Chinese tourists to the US has been growing rapidly.

In a sense, Xi's trip on Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington state was a reminder that the bilateral relationship is largely positive, and the potential for win-win cooperation looks limitless.

But Xi, as he addressed all the issues of concern by American audience in his speech in Seattle on Tuesday, won't avoid discussing difficult issues facing the relationship, such as cyber security and the South China Sea.

A candid dialogue, based on mutual respect and equality, is what the Chinese have been talking about all the time.

Contact the writer at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com.