Beijing Chinese leader Hu Jintao is being feted in Washington this week with a lavish state banquet at the White House and other pomp usually reserved for close friends and allies — all intended to improve the tone of relations between a risen, more assertive and prosperous China and the U.S. superpower in a tenuous economic recovery.
The shaky trust between the United States and China has been eroding recently because of an array of issues — currency policies and trade barriers, nuclear proliferation and North Korea, and both sides seem to recognize the need to recalibrate relations.
The U.S. is one of China’s biggest markets, with $380 billion in annual trade largely in Beijing’s favor. Washington increasingly needs Beijing’s help in managing world troubles, from piracy off Africa to Iran’s nuclear program and reinvigorating the world economy.
Hu sounded a conciliatory tone in a rare interview with U.S. newspapers ahead of his visit, saying the two countries could mutually benefit by finding “common ground” on issues ranging from combatting terrorism and nuclear proliferation to clean energy and infrastructure initiatives.
“There is no denying that there are some differences and sensitive issues between us,” Hu said in written answers to questions submitted by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, which were published over the weekend. “We both stand to gain from a sound China-U.S. relationship, and lose from confrontation.”
Hu called for more dialogues and exchanges to enhance “practical cooperation,” stressing the need to “abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality” in U.S.-China relations.
The state banquet President Barack Obama is hosting will be Hu’s first. In the days before his visit, senior officials from both countries have spoken publicly in favor of better ties.