The presumed next leader of China wants to keep building the U.S.-China relationship, but some things have changed.
China's Vice President Xi Jinping meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office / Reuters
It's a safe bet that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is considered heir apparent to the leadership of China, had a better time in Washington on Monday night than he did on Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday, Xi dined with some of the old lions of U.S. foreign policy, among them former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, along with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. These retired officials tend to stress the need for a continuity of ties and the long-term stability of the "G-2" relationship between Washington and Beijing.
On Tuesday, by contrast, Xi ran into a faceful of decorous but pointed U.S. criticism during official meetings with President Obama and Vice President Biden. Obama, who has engaged in a frank policy of pressure on Beijing that includes beefing up partnerships with India, the Philippines, and Myanmar, deploying Marines to Australia and assembling a trans-Pacific trade partnership intended to force Chinese observance of intellectual property rights, told Xi that China needed to be a better global citizen.
"With expanding power and prosperity also comes increased responsibilities," the president said as he sat next to Xi in the Oval Office. "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, and that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow," he said. Biden hammered home the same points.