Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 22, on his first state visit since his election in 2012. While here he met with various CEOs, spoke before the United Nations and discussed climate change, cybertheft and security issues with President Obama, among other U.S.-China relation issues.
“The trip [was] billed as the most important U.S. visit by a Chinese leader in a generation,” wrote Andrew Hammond, Senior Correspondent at Reuters, in a Reuters blog.
A large portion of President Xi’s intentions during his visit appear to have been economic. Reuters reported that he met with executives from Microsoft, Apple, Boeing and even Facebook, which is banned in China, among other companies. The first stop on his seven-day trip was to Washington State, not Washington, D.C.
On Oct. 5, Amy Celico spoke at Portland State about the impact of the president’s visit, as a part of an event called China Town Hall, sponsored by PSU’s Institute for Asian Studies and the Northwest China Council of Portland, and presented by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. China Town Hall is a yearly webcast where a panel discusses China-U.S. issues, followed by a local discussion headed by an expert on the subject.
Celico has worked in U.S.–China relations at the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. State Department and the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai. Currently she works in the private sector, advising on Chinese business relations.
“Major issues on the U.S. agenda while he was here included cybertheft, humanitarian causes and market access restrictions,” Celico said.
“Because of the slowdown in China’s GDP growth, and its effect on global economy, we thought a topic focusing on economics and trade would be appropriate this year,” said John Wong, of Northwest China Council, which was responsible for creating the focus of the China Town Hall meeting at PSU.
Celico commented that Xi’s first leg of the U.S. tour in Washington State was for a push to let U.S. businesses know that China could be a working ally. This comes at a time when Chinese restrictions could be a deterrent to many companies wanting to do business there.
“They said that they would look at national security considerations in a way that doesn’t discriminate against foreign companies.” Said Celico, “That was very positive from our perspective.”
The most focused topic of the webcast panel was bilateral trade relations, mostly focusing on Chinese investment in the U.S.—that is, Chinese factories in the U.S. One of the panel speakers was Sheldon Day, mayor of Thomasville, Alabama for nearly 20 years, who spoke of the Chinese company Golden Dragon moving into his small town. He said they have created opportunity, success and cultural sharing in Thomasville. There was no mention of dangers, or lack thereof, that the copper-tubing company might have on the community.
As for cybertheft, Celico was optimistic. “It was one of the more significant outcomes of the visit,” Celico said. “President Xi acknowledged this problem, and said that China and the United States would work together when their private entities try to steal intellectual property and commercial secrets.”
On the front of climate change, the U.S. and China plan to work together. A White House press release stated, “On the occasion of President Xi’s State Visit to Washington, D.C., the two Presidents reaffirm their shared conviction that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity and that their two countries have a critical role to play in addressing it.” Among other contributors, the two countries are the top two emitters of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere, as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Xi Jinping’s agenda largely revolved around a positive and powerful press image back home. “They wanted President Xi to be afforded the respect of a global leader,” Celico said. “It was from the Chinese perspective a very successful visit. While President Xi was in Seattle, in Washington, D.C. and in New York, he was treated like a global leader, and that’s what China wanted to get.”
“The U.S. and China agreed to very positive cooperative steps,” Celico concluded, saying that the two countries will have to work together in the future, noting issues such as currency devaluations, global health issues, wildlife trafficking and climate change—and that there were issues where no headway was made, including human rights, territorial disputes and altering non-governmental organization (NGO) management laws.
On the morning that Celico spoke, the twelve countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade agreement among numerous Pacific rim countries—reached an agreement. Participating countries include Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia, but China was not included, according to the New York Times.
Although President Xi’s visit was a step in the right direction, the U.S. and China’s relations are still tense and may contain many challenges down the road. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea look to be a roadblock in upcoming relations between the two countries. President Xi’s visit was a show that we need to work together economically and politically to better both countries future’s.