Chinese VP to US: China Ready for ‘Candid Dialogue’ on Human Rights

Posted February 14th, 2012 at 3:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping has told U.S. leaders that China is ready for a “candid dialogue” on human rights and pledged cooperation on economic issues.

Xi said he stressed to U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in meetings at the White House Tuesday that China has made “tremendous and well-recognized” achievements on human rights in the more than three decades since reform and opening up. But he said there is always room for improvement.

“Given China's huge population, considerable regional diversity and uneven development, we are still faced with many challenges in improving people's livelihood and advancing human rights. The Chinese government will always put people's interests first and take seriously people's aspirations and demands. We will in the light of China's national conditions, continue to take concrete and effective policies and measures to promote social fairness, justice and harmony and push forward China's cause of human rights.”

On economic and trade issues, Xi told a State Department luncheon the two nations should strive for greater balance in trade and investment and address each other's concerns through dialogue, not protectionism.

Xi's comments came after President Obama assured him that the U.S. welcomes China's rise in the world, but said all countries must follow the same rules when it comes to the world economic system and human rights.

Hosting Xi in the Oval Office Tuesday, Mr. Obama said China's extraordinary development over the last two decades has brought it expanding power and prosperity, but also “increased responsibilities.”

“We want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system. And that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the United States and China, but around the world. It also means that on critical issues like human rights, we will continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the aspirations and rights of all people.”

Xi's visit is attracting close attention, as he is expected to become China's Communist Party leader later this year and president in 2013.

Vice President Biden told Tuesday's luncheon that the ability of both sides to speak candidly about differences is a “sign of the strength and maturity” of the U.S.-China relationship.

“We saw this in the recent U.N. Security Council debate about Syria where we strongly disagreed with China and Russia's veto of a resolution against the unconscionable violence being perpetrated by the Assad regime.”

Despite the acknowledgement of differences, the meetings were warm and focused on cooperation. Mr. Obama said a cooperative relationship between the two powers based on mutual respect is in the interests of the world.

Xi will spend much of his time with Biden, who visited China as Xi's guest in August.

Tibetan protesters have been demonstrating in Washington since Xi's arrival Monday, chanting slogans against China and holding pictures of Tibetans who recently self-immolated in protest of Chinese rule.

Xi's visit will also serve as an opportunity for Washington to convince Beijing that the “pivot” in U.S. military power towards Asia is not meant to contain China's rise.

After lunch, Xi was scheduled to visit with military officials at the Pentagon and then hold talks with American and Chinese business leaders.

In an interview published Monday in The Washington Post, Xi warned against a U.S. military build-up in Asia, even while maintaining that there is “ample” room in the Pacific region for both countries.

After his arrival, he said the United States should take “concrete measures to promote mutual trust” between the two countries.

Xi is due to travel Wednesday to the midwestern state of Iowa and then to California before returning to China on Friday.