By Jean Cao Junchen and Shannon Najmabadi
Chinese President Xi Jinping and visiting US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew met on Tuesday – a symbolic meeting that will “test the potential for cooperation between the world’s first- and second- largest economies,” according to the Washington Post.
Xi and Lew’s meeting was their first in their respective new roles as president and treasury secretary, but the discussion hit upon familiar issues – such as reducing Chinese trade barriers to US investment – while emphasizing shared interests between the countries.
According to the Washington Post, the meeting “came amid great misgivings in Beijing over Washington’s renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific region and Washington’s concerns over China’s reluctance to pressure its mercurial ally North Korea and Beijing’s alleged sate-sponsored computer hacking.”
Despite these underlying qualms, Xi and Lew “stuck resolutely to diplomatic niceties in front of the watching media,” according to Reuters.
As reported by the People’s Daily, a news release issued by the Foreign Ministry after the talks stated “Xi said China stood ready to work with the US to ‘respect and take care of each other’s core interests and major concerns and properly handle differences’.”
According to Reuters, an emailed statement from a US official said the meeting was a 45 minute affair during which Lew was “candid and direct.” The issues of cyber-security, North Korea, intellectual property and currencies were among those broached during the meeting.
Jin Canrong, an associate dean of the School of International Relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, was quoted in US News as saying, “China-US relations are much more mature than they were before, but the atmosphere is still strained.” He also noted that the “relatively swift resolution of a potentially crippling crisis last year over a dissident who sought US protection seemed to take the relationship to a more stable level.”
While the two countries undoubtedly have differences, both leaders underlined the importance of the Strategic Economic Dialogue in strengthening bilateral ties.
“In the China-US relationship we have enormous shared interest, but of course, unavoidably, we have some differences,” Xi, quoted by the People’s Daily, said.
“I believe that we will always be able to set the direction of this relationship moving forward to the benefit of the people of both countries,” Xi added, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
After the meeting, Lew and US government officials had lunch at a dumpling restaurant close to the US embassy in Beijing Phoenix TV reported.
The meal reportedly cost 109 yuan, including dumplings, cold dishes and tea. Lew squared the account on his own in Chinese currency, and said to the waiter that the dumplings were delicious.
The restaurant was located near the US embassy. US Ambassador Gary Locke and other embassy personnel reportedly often visit the restaurant for meals, the owner told reporters.