Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived at the White House for talks with Barack Obama as the leaders of the two powers look for common ground on economic and security issues without alienating their domestic audiences.
With many Americans blaming China in part for the high US unemployment rate, both presidents will be looking to build trust in a relationship grounded in mutual interest but troubled by disputes.
Mr Hu’s visit follows a two-year period in which China initially snubbed the US on climate change, did little to influence its unpredictable ally North Korea and responded limply to US pleas to mitigate trade imbalances. For its part, the US riled China with arms sales to Taiwan and by inviting Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to the White House.
The Chinese leader was welcomed on arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, by Vice President Joe Biden and then attended the first of two dinners President Obama is hosting for him during his four-day visit.
Mr Obama was joined at Tuesday night’s private dinner, in the Old Family Dining Room in the White House, by national security adviser Tom Donilon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mr Hu brought two top Chinese officials. The private dinner preceded a pomp-filled welcoming ceremony planned for Wednesday morning.
After initial talks on Wednesday, the two leaders will hold a joint news conference at the White House, with just four questions allowed, two from US journalists and two from Chinese reporters. A full state dinner at the White House in the evening will be the ceremonial highlight.
Mr Obama plans to host a meeting for Mr Hu and US and Chinese business leaders to promote increased US exports to China and greater Chinese investment in the US. Among those scheduled to attend are Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jeff Immelt of General Electric, Greg Brown of Motorola, Jim McNerney of Boeing and nine other US executives.
US companies have been long-time critics of Chinese policies that kept its currency low relative to the dollar. A low-priced yuan makes Chinese products cheaper in the US and US products more expensive in China.