Xi Jinping

Biden ends trip by reassuring Beijing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2011, 12:00am


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US Vice-President Joe Biden left China for coal-rich Mongolia yesterday after reassuring senior Chinese leaders about the vitality of the US economy despite the debt crisis, and getting to know his counterpart Xi Jinping, widely expected to become China's president in 2013.

Biden flew out from Chengdu yesterday morning, a day after he delivered a speech on Sino-US ties at Sichuan University and visited Dujiangyan, hit by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

His tour was overshadowed by suggestions that America's global influence was declining and fears about the rise of China.

He repeatedly stressed that the US was not waning as a global power, while Chinese leaders gave the American economy the thumbs up and said they were confident it would meet its obligations with regard to its government debt.

Jia Qingguo, associate dean of Peking University's international studies school and one of five academics who met Biden on Saturday, said that allaying fears was the key achievement of the visit because it showed that both sides were determined to create a positive atmosphere for Sino-US ties.

'It is rare and commendable for Biden to say in public that the US welcomes the rise of China,' he said.

But other analysts said the visit was symbolic and had not settled long-term bilateral disputes. A commentary by Xinhua on Sunday gave Biden a positive assessment but said the US had to realise that confidence could not be established through mere rhetoric but only from responsible actions.

'Now comes the time when the United States needs to show the world that it is not only capable of making promises but also has the determination, ability and political will to turn them into reality,' it said.

A key feature of Biden's tour was that he was accompanied by Xi for most of the itinerary. Xi left US officials with an open and straightforward impression, in contrast to earlier suggestions that he might choose to reveal little of himself because the leadership reshuffle has not yet been finalised.

'Xi was more active than I expected,' said Renmin University US affairs expert Jin Canrong, who also met Biden on Saturday. 'It shows that China is more confident with its status in the world and believes it has more bargaining power now.' But Niu Xinchun, from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the visit had not resulted in significant change to the sometimes troublesome Sino-US relationship.

For Beijing, the tricky issue of US arms sales to Taiwan - with the US expected to announce an upgrade of the island's F-16 A/B jets - made good bilateral sentiment vulnerable, Jin said, and that could affect arrangements for Xi's reciprocal visit to Washington, the details of which have not been fixed.

Another Biden achievement during the trip was getting the support of Chinese internet users. In their microblog postings, many left positive comments on Biden eating at a small Beijing restaurant, rather than having lavish meals. 'The US knows how to use new media to engage the Chinese public,' said Yang Fei, vice-director of a research institute at Communication University.