Amid Tensions, China's President Heads To The U.S. : Parallels On his first state visit, President Xi Jinping will meet with tech CEOs in Seattle before going to Washington, where he aims to allay U.S. concerns over cyber-security, human rights and other issues.
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Amid Tensions, China's President Heads To The U.S.

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Amid Tensions, China's President Heads To The U.S.

Amid Tensions, China's President Heads To The U.S.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And the U.S. is getting another high-profile visitor tomorrow - China's president, Xi Jinping. It will be his first state visit and comes at a time of tension over cyber-security, human rights and territorial disputes in the South China Sea, among other things. NPR's Anthony Kuhn brings us the view from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Just over a week ago, the Obama administration was considering sanctioning China in response to suspected hacking attacks, especially one that compromised the data of millions of federal employees. If not for some last-minute diplomacy, this week's state visit might never have happened. Now both governments are trying to show that they can manage differences and avoid conflict. Last week, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that Xi Jinping's aim will be to build trust and dispel U.S. doubts.

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WANG YI: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: China has become one of the most important participants and supporters of the current international order, he said. We have no motive to overthrow an international system in which we are full-fledged participants. Xi's first stop will be in Seattle, where he's expected to meet with the CEOs of Apple, Boeing and Microsoft, among others. Some American tech companies have complained that in order to do business in China, Beijing is demanding that they comply with national security laws. They fear that this could require them to hand over key technology or even let Beijing snoop on their users. Beijing University international relations expert Zha Daojiong points out that some Chinese tech firms have been shut out of the U.S. on security grounds.

ZHA DAOJIONG: Market access is first and foremost a legal issue. A Chinese company going into the United States does not and cannot or should not say, hey, I'm here to define what market access is.

KUHN: But, Zha adds, you don't hear many Chinese complaints because the more powerful U.S. is able to put its concerns at the top of the summit agenda. From Seattle, Xi will head to Washington, D.C., for a state dinner. There, he's not expected to make many concessions on political issues such as China's building on disputed islands in the South China Sea or its ongoing crackdown on China's human rights lawyers.

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UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in foreign language).

KUHN: This month, Xi presided over a grand military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. To some observers, this showed Xi in firm political and military control. Zha Daojiong says that on the economic side, though, the signals are more mixed. China's economy is slowing. Consumption growth is tepid, and then...

ZHA: There is the next logical question. What have you done for the bread-and-butter issues? For urban residents, air pollution, real income growth, food safety - these issues matter a lot more.

KUHN: Zha notes that there's another thing China wants - the return of scores of corrupt officials who have fled to the U.S., including the brother of a former presidential aide believed to be carrying classified documents. The U.S. emphasizes that China must provide clear evidence of the fugitive's crimes. Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang recently addressed this issue without naming any names.

ZHENG ZEGUANG: (Speaking Chinese).

KUHN: The list of fugitives and their assets that China seeks to repatriate has been carefully verified, he said, and there is ample evidence. Zha Daojiong adds that on this issue, public opinion is on the government's side in China, where corrupt officials get very little sympathy. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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