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Xi Calls for ‘New Model’ U.S.-China Relationship

by AFP
Mark Ralston—AFP

Mark Ralston—AFP

Chinese president urges Washington to seek less suspicion, more understanding in ties with Asian giant.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the United States and China to better understand each other’s “strategic intentions” on Tuesday, asking for “a new model of major country relationship” with more understanding and less suspicion.

In the keynote speech in the Pacific coast commercial hub of Seattle on the first day of a state visit, Xi insisted that Beijing does not seek conflict despite stressed relations in a number of areas. “We want to see more understanding and trust and less estrangement and suspicion,” he said. “Should they enter into conflict and confrontation, it would lead to disaster for both countries and the world at large,” he said.

Ahead of talks with the Obama administration later this week on hot-button issues like China’s expanding presence in the South China Sea, cyber theft and human rights, Xi sought to assuage an audience of mostly businessmen and U.S. state officials that China was a positive force in the global economy and was pushing forward with reforms based on rule of law and market principles. He promised to treat U.S. investors in China fairly and to fight against commercial cyber theft, a growing complaint against China by American businesses.

“We respect the international business norms of non-discrimination,” he told an audience that included the chief executives of some of the largest U.S. businesses, including Boeing, Amazon, DuPont, IBM and Microsoft, all of whom have substantial business in China. “We will address legitimate concerns of foreign investors in a timely fashion.”

On the hacking issue, he said China itself is a victim and was ready to set up a “high-level” mechanism with the United States to discuss the problem. “The Chinese government will not in whatever form engage in commercial theft or encourage or support such attempts by anyone.”

At the same time, he suggested that U.S. threats to sanction Chinese officials over the alleged hacking were out of line, saying cyber theft was a crime that had to be prosecuted “in accordance with law.”

He also stressed that China’s economic downturn was temporary and that the government was on top of recent market turmoil. “At present all economies are facing difficulties and our economy is also under general pressure. But this is only a problem in the course of progress,” Xi said. “China’s stock market has reached the phase of self-recovery and self- adjustment,” he added.

Xi is spending two days in Seattle meeting with the governors of U.S. states with substantial trade and investment ties to China, and the businesses themselves, sending a message to the White House that U.S. companies need China. On Wednesday he will visit Boeing’s huge assembly facility and then Microsoft’s campus.

He was introduced by legendary U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger, who made the first secretive effort in 1971 to restore long-broken relations with China and who praised Xi as the man able to take the relationship to a new level.

The Chinese leader charmed his audience with quotes from Martin Luther King, recollections of former visits to Seattle and knowing references to popular U.S. culture, including the romance comedy Sleepless in Seattle.

Defending his government’s crackdown on corruption, he quipped: “This has nothing to do with power struggle. This is no House of Cards.”

But he also took pains to remind Washington that China has been a responsible partner and team player in dealing with crises from Ebola to North Korea’s nuclear threat to global warming, as well as acting to support the world economy in the 2008 financial crisis.

And, segueing from his comments on his government’s anti-corruption fight, he pointed a direct finger at the U.S. government’s allowing Chinese wanted for corruption to hide in the United States. He called for Washington’s cooperation “so that corrupt elements will be denied an overseas safe haven.”

He also responded to criticisms that China’s tough new security law will effectively outlaw foreign non-governmental organizations, saying the country welcomed and would protect those whose activities “are beneficial to the Chinese people.” But he also stressed they had to obey Chinese law.

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