Obama to look for personal relationship with Chinese president Friday

Alec Hill | Contributor

President Obama will be spending this weekend meeting with recently elected Chinese President Xi Jinping outside of Los Angeles, and this time, it’s personal.

The meetings will take place at a secluded desert retreat called Sunnylands, and over the course of two full days out of the public eye, many expect that a key goal of the meeting will be to establish a personal connection between the two men.

Mr. Xi has abandoned note cards — standard in such meetings — in past meetings with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, in favor of more direct conversation, The New York Times reported. He will also bring his wife along for the trip, adding to the more intimate flavor of the weekend. Mrs. Obama, it was reported, will remain in Washington as the Obama children finish their school year.

The meetings come at a time when many issues complicate the relationship between the two nations: cyber security, economic rivalry, North Korea, and Mr. Obama’s well-known desire to increase U.S. influence in Asia and the Pacific.  The White House remained vague on the specific goals of the weekend in their press release on May 20th, saying only that the two would discuss “a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.”

Friday will not, however, be the first time the Obama White House has been in contact with Mr. Xi. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Beijing in August 2011, when Mr. Xi was vice president of China, and Mr. Xi reciprocated with a tour of the U.S. in 2012, according to the Washington Post

Joe Biden shares a giggle with then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in 2011 (Photo: The White House)

Biden Xi meeting 2011

Despite the personal feeling of the talks that both sides are hoping for, experts note that China and the U.S. do not see eye to eye on important issues that the talks will likely address. The main concern for Obama could be China’s blatant and continued theft of both American industrial secrets and classified government information. (SEE ALSO: TheDC’s report on Chinese cyber espionage).

Higher ups in the Chinese government may in fact be ignorant of the extent to which such espionage takes place at the command of military leaders, USA Today hypothesized. Regardless, Obama is expected to make it clear that cyber security is a prerequisite to good relationships between the U.S. and China.

China is also one of the few allies and suppliers North Korea has left. That relationship limits the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions and diplomatic efforts to thwart North Korea’s development of a nuclear program.

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