United States President Obama hosted Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for a private dinner Thursday as they and their aides prepared for meetings designed to deal with cyber security and a new agreement to cooperate on combating climate change.
Though Obama aides trumpeted a climate change deal to be announced Friday, Obama and Xi are likely to have tense talks over allegations of cyber theft and a Chinese military buildup in the South Chinese Sea.
The low-key dinner at Blair House, across the street from the White House, preceded Xi's official state visit Friday. The presidents shared dinner in the shadow of rising tensions between the United States and China.
The Obama administration has accused China of cyber espionage on the U.S. government and on private US companies. It has also protested the Chinese military buildup in the South China Sea, calling it a provocation toward U.S. allies such as Japan and South Korea
In the agreement to be announced Friday, the United States and China will outline a common vision for a global climate change agreement to be negotiated at a conference in December in Paris.
The United States and China will pledge to expand domestic programs to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions, develop new and cleaner sources of energy and find ways to finance these kinds of projects.
The deal builds on an agreement Obama and Xi reached the last time the US president visited China, in late 2014.
The Chinese delegation’s spokesman said the small working dinner, with the two presidents and a handful of aides on both sides, serves a major goal of his president.
“President Xi is interested in enhancing understanding, that’s why they would benefit from an informal dialog,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Thursday. He would not predict what the two leaders would agree to during the visit, but said teams on both sides are working very hard for deliverables the [president] can announce tomorrow.”
They agree on many areas of common interest, including economics, climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and resolving conflict with Iran and on the Korean peninsula, he said.
China and the USA may have some differences sometimes, but we also have a lot of common ground,” Lu said. Any cooperation, any joint venture will have to based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and also equality,” Lu said.
China is also a victim of cyber attack and cyber crimes, Lu said. The right approach is for countries to work together rather than undertake unconstructive approaches.”