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Chinese leadership pledges new relationship with US and demands respect for ‘core interests’

Wednesday, March 20th 2013 - 08:08 UTC
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President Xi Jinping (R) meets Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew for candid and direct talks  (Photo/Xinhua) President Xi Jinping (R) meets Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew for candid and direct talks (Photo/Xinhua)

Chinese President Xi Jinping told US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in Beijing on Tuesday that he wants to build a new type of relationship with Washington centred on core interests.

It was Xi's first major international meeting since taking office on Thursday. It was also the first high-level Sino-US contact since former US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta visited Beijing in September.

“I attach great importance to China's relationship with the United States,” Xi told Lew, who took office last month. Chinese and US diplomats and financial officials, including new Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, who was appointed just days ago, attended the meeting.

“In the China-US relationship we have enormous shared interests, but of course, unavoidably, we have some differences,” Xi said.

According to a news release the Foreign Ministry issued after the talks, Xi said China stood ready to work with the US to “respect and take care of each other's core interests and major concerns and properly handle differences”.

Beijing wants to “open a path of new relations between major countries”, he said.

Liu Hui, a researcher on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi mentioned “core interests” because in the past Washington's attitude on issues concerning the East China Sea and South China Sea irritated Beijing.

“It is a polite yet firm request for Washington to ensure China's national interests and achieve equality in that regard,” Liu said.

Xi also said on Tuesday intertwined economic interests are the “cornerstone” of bilateral ties. Bilateral trade reached a record high of 484.68 billion dollars in 2012, a year-on-year growth of 8.5%.

“Both sides should take an objective look at the other's stage of development, respect each other's development interests, and take each other's opportunities and challenges as their own”, Xi said, according to the ministry release.

The academy's Liu said Xi was referring to China's concerns in the economic field including barriers obstructing Chinese investment in the US.

Lifting Washington's ban on exporting hi-tech products to China and having it grant market economy status to China are also among Beijing's pursuits, Liu said.

“China and the US are now positioned at their respective phase of development, and if Washington refuses to share more of its comparative advantage, such as leading technology, the trade deficit which is now Washington's biggest headache in bilateral ties will remain unchanged,” Liu said.

In response, Lew told Xi that Washington attached great importance to the concerns of Beijing.

Lew is travelling not only as US treasury secretary but also as a “special representative” of US President Barack Obama, and the Associated Press suggested he might be responsible for a wider range of issues than just finance.

”The (US) president is firmly committed to building a relationship of growing strength,“ Lew told Xi. Obama wants healthy competition with China and will properly handle disputes, he said.

”I can say we have a seamless connection,“ Xi said, referring to the two new top financial officials from both sides attending the meeting.

A US official told agencies that the 45-minute meeting, which Lew said was ”candid and direct”, covered issues including currencies, intellectual property, cybersecurity and North Korea. It also touched upon the situation in Cyprus, which is the subject of a controversial EU bailout.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey, Obama's top military adviser as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will also visit China in April.

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