The crowd of 600 or so business and diplomatic leaders snaked their way through the security lines at the Marriot Wardman this morning while flag waving supporters gathered outside. Henry Kissinger set the geopolitical context with a reminder on the need for greater U.S.-China ties. The alternatives would be disastrous for both, he emphasized. In a nod to changing times he mentioned the “old” world of international affairs within which he grew up and operated, a world where states marked territory and competed for influence. Those days are passing and the problems facing both the U.S. and China require cooperation not conflict, he said.
Xi’s thirty-minute or so speech contained no major policy announcements. Long on positive trends in U.S.-China relations and the start of a new era (important signaling for possible future changes) he went on at length of his affection for Iowa and reconnecting an American to old friends from her youth, now ninety years old, in China. The crowd listened politely, but there was no mention of resolving many of the trade tensions that plague the relationship.
Xi said both of our countries will continue to work closely together. The U.S. should recognize Tibet as part of China (an unusual talking point for this crowd), but human rights are an important issue to discuss. The trade deficit can be eased if the U.S. would allow more high-tech exports (a common talking point for the last five years or so).
Overall impression – A seasoned politician at ease with speechmaking, but offering little insight into where China is headed. His visit is clearly meant to renew and deepen relationships, not promote specific policies. It would be politically unwise for him to step out on a limb until the political transition is complete later this year and he consolidates his allies into key positions. Look to early-mid 2013 for signs of any new direction.
Photo: Public domain.