China’s likely next leader, Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), warned the US against plans to boost its military strength in Asia as he prepared for a closely watched visit to Washington starting yesterday.
Xi, who is tipped to rule the rising Asian power until 2023, called on the US to prioritize economic growth and promised anew that Beijing would address foreign concerns about its currency’s value.
In a written interview with the Washington Post, Xi said that the Pacific Ocean had “ample space” for both China and the US, but insisted that Asian countries were concerned foremost with “economic prosperity.”
“At a time when people long for peace, stability and development, to deliberately give prominence to the military security agenda, scale up military deployment and strengthen military alliances is not really what most countries in the region hope to see,” Xi said.
“We welcome a constructive role by the United States in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interests and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries,” he said.
US President Barack Obama, while seeking to trim vast military spending in response to budget pressure, has vowed to boost power in Asia where a number of nations have voiced concern at what they charge is a more assertive China.
The US has moved in recent months to send troops to Australia and the Philippines. It has also sought to increase military ties with Vietnam and Singapore, while maintaining longstanding bases in Japan and South Korea.
The Obama administration has nonetheless tried to build personal bonds with Xi in hopes of future cooperation. China starts its power transition later this year, with Xi expected to succeed Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) next year.
Xi was scheduled to arrive yesterday and will enjoy a welcome today at the White House, including a meeting with Obama. He will also stop at the Pentagon for talks billed by US officials as significant in building military trust.
Tomorrow Xi will visit Iowa — where he paid a formative first visit to the US in 1985 as a low-ranking official — and Los Angeles.
White House officials have said that they want a positive relationship with Xi, but they will press key US concerns, some of which may grow in prominence as November elections approach.
US lawmakers accuse China of devastating US industry by keeping its currency artificially low to boost exports and of failing to protect the intellectual property of US companies.
Xi said that Americans have benefited from China’s rapid economic growth.
“We have taken active steps to meet legitimate US concerns over IPR [intellectual property rights] protection and trade imbalance, and we will continue to do so,” he said.
However, he also repeated calls for the US to ease restrictions on exports of sensitive technology to China and to “provide a level playing field” for Chinese businesses in the US market.