Obama Encourages China To Play By 'Same Rules'

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met with Vice President Biden and President Obama on Tuesday. The leader-in-waiting came to discuss economics and other irritants between China and the US, including human rights and defense issues.

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China's vice president is in Washington today getting a grand tour of American power. That includes face time with President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the list goes on.

SIEGEL: If Vice President Xi Jinping is keeping the schedule of a head of state, that's because he's expected to become one when Hu Jintao steps down. As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, the White House is hoping Mr. Xi can help move beyond the standoff with President Hu on a wide range of issues.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: In the U.S. presidential race, there is a war of words over who can be tougher on China. But when China is actually in the room, the words are gentler.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We welcome China's peaceful rise.

SHAPIRO: President Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping sat side by side in the Oval Office. Mr. Obama alluded to some of the tensions between the two countries, cribbing a line from "Spiderman."

OBAMA: With expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities. And so, we want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system.

SHAPIRO: That's a barely veiled reference to the debate over China's trade practices and currency manipulation. The list of friction points between China and the U.S. stretches far beyond that. There are military concerns, fights over intellectual property and a recent clash over how the international community should respond to the Syrian government's crackdown on its people.

Vice President Xi did not mention any of that. Through a translator, he said the goal of this trip is to move the U.S.-China relationship forward in the right direction.

VICE PRESIDENT XI JINPING: That is for our two countries to work together to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests.

SHAPIRO: This is a highly choreographed visit that includes a formal lunch at the State Department and meetings at the Pentagon. It's not all symbolic, though. Matthew Goodman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says both countries are laying groundwork for the next decade of tricky diplomacy.

MATTHEW GOODMAN: It's important that leaders who are addressing some of these difficult issues do have an understanding of each other and a basis for talking to each other about these difficult issues. So, if they don't go through these diplomatic encounters, then it's harder to have a really discussion, frankly, about these more challenging issues.

SHAPIRO: When Vice President Xi finishes these meetings in Washington, he'll visit Iowa and then go on to Los Angeles. Xi says he hopes to meet a broad cross-section of Americans on this visit to deepen the friendship between the two countries.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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