The man likely to become China’s next leader, Vice-President Xi Jinping, is set to begin a closely watched visit to the United States.
In comments to the Washington Post ahead of his trip, Xi sounded a note of warning to the US over its military stance in the Pacific.
He said scaling up military activity was not what countries in the region wanted to see.
He will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.
Anchor Marco Werman gets a preview of Xi’s trip from The World’s China correspondent Mary Kay Magistad.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. China’s sometimes prickly relationship with the US is front and center this week. The man expected to become China’s next leader is in the United States for a visit. Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet with president Obama and other officials in Washington tomorrow, then he makes stops in Iowa and California. We turn to The World’s China correspondent, Mary Kay Magistad, for some perspective on this visit. This is not Xi’s first visit here, Mary Kay, why is he coming now?
Mary Kay Magistad: Well, this will be his last visit before he is likely to become the Communist Party chief in September, October or November, and it’s really to set a tone. It’s to show the United States that this is someone they can do business with. It’s for him to be able to lay out some of his priorities, what he’d like to see happen at least in the early part of his term, and in a way to reassure leaders in Washington that while China will certainly protect its interests, that it is also interested in seeing a good relationship with the United States into the foreseeable future.
Werman: So as you say, he’ll almost certainly be the next head of China and for many people here in the US, Xi Jinping is not a familiar name. Who is he?
Magistad: Well, Xi Jinping is a very interesting guy. His father had been a senior Communist Party official. He was known to be a reformer. Because he was known to be a reformer, Mao Zedong purged him in the early 1960s, and that meant that the entire family had to live in exile for a while. Xi himself as a teenager worked in the countryside, worked in a village, worked in a factory, became a Red guard, denounced his father and then worked to get into the good graces of the communist party. I mean eventually he and his father reconciled. But Xi continued to work his way up the party and over the course of time working as a provincial official, made a name for himself as someone who was quite pragmatic, pretty easy to deal with and business people, particularly, said that he was good for business in the areas where he worked. All that said, it’s not clear at this point what he will do in the way of political reform in the way of moving China in a significantly different direction than where it’s at at the moment.
Werman: Now, some say that Xi Jinping is more personable, more gregarious than President Hu Jintao. Does that matter at all in China?
Magistad: Well, I think increasingly it does matter. There’s a younger generation of Chinese coming up in Chinese society who are you know, plugged in and online, and they’re used to a different level of conversation, and discourse and commentary. And you know, a lot of jokes are made about how stiff and wooden Hu Jintao is, and unapproachable. And Xi Jinping seems very comfortable in his own skin, and actually more similar in some ways to Deng Xiaoping.
Werman: So later this week vice president Xi will be going to the US Agricultural Center of Iowa. What does that seem to indicate about the potential for the US and China to collaborate more in agriculture?
Magistad: I think one thing it indicates is that Xi is going back a place where he spent time when he was a provincial official, and where his father visited actually in the early stages of economic reform. And it’s both a personal visit to reconnect with people who he met back then, but also to show that he’s interested not just in talking to the power elites in the United States, but also in connecting with real people. And again, this hearkens back to Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States in the late ’70s when he went to a rodeo, he put on a rodeo hat and you know, that image went around not just the states, but also China and people sort of found him to be much more approachable, much more understandable. Xi on his visit to the United States is expected to go to a basketball game, possibly a Lakers game for the same sort of reason, to show you know, he’s just a normal kind of guy. And that is likely to play well not just in the United States, but also in China.
Werman: The World’s China correspondent, Mary Kay Magistad, thanks for speaking with us.
Magistad: Thank you, Marco.
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