Sino-US relations

Obama eyes 'frank and fruitful' relations with China's new leaders

US president alludes to anticipated talks with party chief in first meeting with a member of China's new leadership since his re-election

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 3:37am

US President Barack Obama has told Vice-Premier Wang Qishan that he will seek to maintain "energetic, frank and fruitful" relations with China's new leadership, state media reported yesterday.

Xinhua quoted Obama as saying he was also looking forward to his first meeting with new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping since his own re-election early last month and the naming of a new Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing just over a week later.

Wang's meeting with Obama in Washington during his three-day visit to the United States was the first face-to-face meeting between a member of China's new generation of leaders and the US president since Obama's re-election.

Wang, who was made a member of the party's supreme Politburo Standing Committee last month and put in charge of the party's anti-graft watchdog, said his visit would be his last to the US as a vice-premier.

Although Washington has yet to make details of Thursday's brief meeting at the White House public, Chinese analysts said it was symbolically important for both countries despite a lack of concrete results.

Xinhua quoted Wang as saying that the two countries should constantly enrich and expand bilateral relations and translate their consensus and intentions into policies and actions.

China "hopes to develop economic and trade co-operation with the US towards a wider range and a higher level" so as to jointly tackle regional and global challenges, Wang said.

Repeating recent remarks by Xi in a meeting with former US president Jimmy Carter, Wang called on the world's two most powerful nations to "accumulate positive energy" in developing their ties.

Noting that bilateral trade volume had approached US$500 billion, he said China was willing to "discuss the ways to maintain and perfect the economic dialogue mechanism with the US under the new situation".

Obama agreed that "promoting energetic and effective economic relations is still the core of US-China relations" and said the two should seize opportunities to conduct sincere and frank dialogue that was mutually beneficial, Xinhua reported.

Wang had said earlier, after co-chairing the annual meeting of the US-China joint commission on commerce and trade in Washington, that the Chinese and US economies had become "interdependent and inseparable".

Professor Niu Jun, of Peking University's school of international studies, said Obama had sent a positive message by expressing willingness to meet Xi.

"That message alone may be the most meaningful part of the courtesy meeting between Obama and Wang because it underlined the mutual understanding between Beijing and Washington of the importance of closer co-operation in the face of their respective economic difficulties at home," he said.

But both Niu and Pang Zhongying , a professor of international affairs at Renmin University, said a meeting between Xi and Obama was unlikely in the next few months due to ongoing government reshuffles in both countries.

Instead, Pang said, Obama might send senior aides, such as the man tipped to be his next secretary of state, John Kerry, to Beijing in the next six months.

Pang said that while the new leadership in Beijing looked set to make continuity in bilateral ties a priority, Obama had yet to form a clear China policy for his second term despite a great deal of speculation that Washington might get tougher on Beijing as part of its strategic tilt towards Asia.