Barack Obama

Barack Obama to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing during three-day Asia trip

Former US president arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday, giving a speech at a business event

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 10:22pm

Former US president Barack Obama will return to the world stage when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a three-day trip to Asia – his first to the region since leaving office.

He is due to meet Xi in Beijing on Wednesday after beginning his trip with meetings and speaking engagements in Shanghai, his office said in a statement.

Their meeting comes weeks after Xi hosted US President Donald Trump during a high-profile visit to the Chinese capital.

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Obama “looks forward to catching up with his former counterpart” Xi as they have cultivated a “close and cooperative partnership” on issues such as economic development and combating climate change, the statement said.

The two leaders have previously met on multiple occasions, most recently at the annual Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou last September. Xi also travelled to meet Obama during the Annenberg Retreat in California in 2013.

Relations between Obama and Xi were outwardly positive, but were underscored by tensions over human rights in China and Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The two cooperated on various initiatives, most prominently the joint ratification of the Paris climate change pact in 2015, which Trump later withdrew from to make the US the sole non-participating nation. But analysts have criticised Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy, intended to contain Beijing’s ambitions, as largely a failure.

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After meeting Xi, Obama will travel to New Delhi to meet Modi and speak at the HT Media Leadership Summit, which the Indian leader will also attend.

Obama arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday, delivering a speech at an event hosted by business non-profit the Global Alliance of SMEs, which was attended by some 2,500 industry executives according to the organisation’s website.

The event was closed to the media but audience members said his speech included remarks on China’s imports and exports, opportunities and challenges for Chinese small and medium-sized firms, and the sharing economy.

Obama, the first African-American US president, also shook hands and had photos taken with audience members, many of whom forked out thousands of dollars for the chance to rub shoulders with him.

Tickets for the event cost 2,980 yuan (US$450), with an extra 3,000 yuan for a seat closer to the stage, said Chen Qi, deputy director of Leitingwanjun, a company which hosts events for the SME alliance.

A staff member working at the event, surnamed Liu, said on Tuesday that she felt “quite excited” about Obama taking part.

“We’re looking forward to having more opportunities to organise activities for international exchange, to understand the broader world,” she said.

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