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Big expectations for laid-back meeting

Updated: 2013-06-06 01:36
By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington and ZHAO SHENGNAN in Beijing ( China Daily)

Informal summit between leaders offers chance for engagement

The unusually laid-back summit between President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama, planned for Friday and Saturday, has given rise to expectations that an informal atmosphere will help the leaders of the world's two biggest economies tackle many simmering issues.

Big expectations for laid-back meeting

Observers and officials said the unprecedented informality of the meeting, early in Obama's second term and shortly after Xi took office in March, will provide many ways for them to build a personal relationship and conduct substantive discussions about matters that have significance for both countries and the world.

Big expectations for laid-back meeting

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, said on Tuesday the two leaders are expected to have a "substantive, candid and productive conversation" in the Sunnylands estate in southern California, "the really perfect venue for the type of discussions we would like to have with the Chinese president".

Obama and Xi will have informal chats, a private dinner and a second day of talks based on a freewheeling agenda that is a departure for the usually tightly scripted US-China summits, US officials said.

Between group meetings, they are expected to have some one-on-one time among the manicured gardens and walking paths at the estate.

Big expectations for laid-back meeting

Media reports also quoted a US diplomat as saying that US officials have prepared enough discussion material to allow Obama to talk for seven hours, but how long the meeting will last depends on how well the two get along.

Xi "seems to be someone who is fast on his feet, who's open to engagement", AFP quoted a White House official as saying, adding Xi also appears willing to speak directly to Americans and to issues of concern to Americans.

Another White House adviser was quoted as saying that Obama makes a priority of forging a personal connection with foreign leaders, which could pay off down the road during a crisis.

A broad agenda is expected to be covered, including economic issues, energy and cybersecurity.

Danny Russel, Obama's nominee for assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the summit is an opportunity to get to know the Chinese president who the Obama administration is going to be dealing with over the next four years; to communicate Obama's priorities and concerns; and to hear Xi identify areas for practical cooperation and ones that both leaders see as priorities, such as denuclearization and economic growth.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the two sides are trying to find common ground during the meeting in an effort to avert problems in the relationship.

"Such an arrangement also reflects Beijing's self-confidence and the future of Sino-US relations," he said.

Calling Beijing's acceptance of Washington's invitation "encouraging", Russel said China's focus on a new type of relationship is a way to avoid the kind of rivalry between a rising power and established power that has often been seen in history, while there is understanding on both sides about avoiding conflict.

Rhodes also said the two countries will build a relationship that is broad enough to encompass both cooperation and a degree of competition, citing the example of Pyongyang's nuclear issues and even the issue of cybersecurity, which the US has been raising recently.

Li Cheng, senior fellow and director of research of the John L. Thornton China Center of Brookings Institution, said US political and business leaders have high expectations for Xi, whose previous visit to the US left a good impression.

"The US-China relationship is about people-to-people relationships, and the relationship between top leaders is especially important," he said.

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