Taiwan is one of nine major issues that the US expects to discuss during the White House visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) next week. A special briefing paper prepared for members and committees of US Congress issued yesterday by the Congressional Research Service puts Taiwan at the bottom of the list.
“Xi is almost certain to raise China’s unhappiness over US arms sales to Taiwan,” it says. “China argues that arms sales embolden forces in Taiwan pushing for the island to formalize its separation from mainland China [sic].”
The briefing paper, written by Susan Lawrence, a specialist in Asian affairs, gives a strong hint as to how the administration of US President Barack Obama will respond.
“The January 2012 re-election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has pursued closer economic ties with China, challenges that argument,” the paper says.
“Washington notes that US law in the form of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 requires the US to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive nature,” it says.
While acknowledging that Xi’s views on major issues “remain largely unknown,” the paper points out that he spent 17 years — 1985 to 2002 — rising through the ranks of “economically dynamic” Fujian Province opposite Taiwan and then five years — 2002 to 2007 — in Zhejiang Province, “an export hub known for its freewheeling private businesses.”
“Xi’s time in Fujian gave him a nuanced understanding of the People’s Republic of China’s -complicated relationship with Taiwan,” the paper says. “But the Fujian and Zhejiang jobs focused on trade and investment issues, generally considered more the bailiwick of premiers than Party general secretaries.”
The other major issues expected to be raised: the US pivot toward Asia; violence in Syria; Iran’s nuclear program; North Korea; the European debt crisis; China’s economic model; China’s human rights record and cyber security.
Xi is scheduled to meet with Obama on Thursday and also spend time with his official host, US Vice President Joseph Biden, prior to talks with congressional leaders and members of the Cabinet.
The next day he is scheduled to deliver a policy speech in Washington, before traveling to Iowa, a state with large agricultural exports to China.
According to the briefing paper, Xi will meet in Muscatine, Iowa, with people he first met in 1985 when he visited a provincial animal-feed delegation.
In Des Moines, Iowa, he will meet with the Governor Terry Branstad, whom he also met on the 1985 trip, when Branstad was serving his first term as governor.
The last leg of Xi’s visit to the US is set to take him to Los Angeles for business-related events.
Members of the US Congress have been told that “if all goes as the Chinese leadership has planned,” seven to nine months after Xi returns to China he will be named to the top position in the Chinese Communist Party, general secretary.
He is expected to be named president in March next year and “barring the emergence of serious splits in the leadership” he will hold both posts for two five-year terms.
“Xi’s trip is designed to help him build relationships with American policymakers and legislators, and introduce himself to the American business community and the American people on the eve of his becoming China’s top leader,” the paper says.
“As important to the Chinese side, the trip could also play an important role in helping boost Xi’s stature back home, where he is so far known as much for having a famous father, early Communist Party revolutionary Xi Zhongxun (習仲勛), and a famous wife, military folksinger Peng Liyuan (彭麗媛), as for his own achievements,” it says.