Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Power Talks

Vice President Xi Jinping goes to Washington
We hope love is in the air when Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping meets with US President Barack Obama in Washington today.

Apart from the Bo Xilai-Wang Lijun affair that suddenly erupted last week, Chinese officials have tightly choreographed Xi's visit as an even greater indication that he will become China's next leader before the end of this year.

And the US is giving China face as Obama has invited Xi to have talks in the Oval Office, an honour usually reserved for close allies and partners.

Obama will be keen not to look like a pushover in front of the Chinese, as the Republicans have accused him of being intimidated by China in trade and currency issues, while Xi has to look confident despite the US's disappointment over China's veto of the UN resolution to call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, human rights violations and trade imbalances.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most interesting part of the trip will be a reprisal of Xi's visit to small farming town Muscatine, Iowa he visited 27 years ago. At that time he was an up-and-coming official who led an animal-feed delegation to Iowa. There he toured farms, watched a baseball game and visited a Rotary Club.

He also stayed two nights with a Muscatine couple, where Xi slept in their two sons' bedroom with their Star Trek toys on display.

And now almost 30 years later Xi will go back to visit the same family again which seems like an opportunity to showcase his personality as a man with the common touch despite his "princeling" status.

Discussions between Xi and Obama should be productive. And with the US economy showing signs of revitalization albeit slow, at least America is not as much in the mercy of China as Europe is now.

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