China’s Xi Jinping addresses business, policy leaders

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged greater cooperation with the United States on trade and security issues, what he called a “new type of relationship between major countries.”

Xi, Expected to rise to the presidency of a country emerging as a world economic and political power, spoke in Chinese before an audience of 600 top U.S. corporate and political leaders at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington.

The 15-minute address touched lightly on familiar tensions, with Xi saying that the United States should not intervene when China pursues “core interests” in other places, such as Taiwan and Tibet.

But the official’s focus was on strengthening trade, military and other ties behind a relationship with America that he described as an “unstoppable river.” Stronger cooperation between the countries is “a course that cannot be reversed,” he said.

The luncheon event was the major address of a trip billed as Xi’s introduction to America — his first visit as China’s vice president — and comes as his country prepares a transition to Xi’s presidency. He arrived in Washington on Tuesday.

The emphasis from Xi — and from the top U.S. corporate executives who filled the room -- was on the potential for the two large trading partners to fortify the world economy. Relations between the two sides have been fraught with tension over trade and economic issues -- as well as diplomatic and military issues.

Still, “the United States and China have a tremendous opportunity to build stronger economies and improve the lives of people around the world,” said Muhtar Kent, chief executive of Coca-Cola Co. and chairman of the US-China Business Council, a sponsor of the lunch. “There is perhaps no greater opportunity for two nations to develop a mutually beneficial relationship that can have such a profound impact on so many lives.”

The audience included business executives, politicians, academics and analysts, with corporate sponsors paying $25,000 for a short VIP reception and photo opportunity with Xi.

Earlier in the day, Xi went to Capitol Hill for back-to-back meetings with members of the Senate and House. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) later said that the vice president discussed trade policy and intellectual property issues in the meeting with senators and that McCain asked Xi about China’s human rights record.

Later Wednesday, Xi will return to Muscatine, Iowa, which he visited in 1985 as part of a research tour to learn about agricultural practices.

by Howard Schneider

U.S. business and foreign policy leaders gathered at a Woodley Park hotel on Wednesday morning for an address by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the major speech of his visit to the United States.

The lunch was expected to draw a crowd of 600 business executives, politicians, academics and analysts, with corporate sponsors paying $25,000 for a short VIP reception and photo opportunity with China’s presumptive next president.

According to the program, the expected guests included an A-list of corporate and political leaders -- with an opening toast by Coca Cola chief executive Muhtar Kent and an introduction of Xi by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

Xi’s trip has been billed as his official introduction to the nation before his expected ascension to China’s presidency. His morning address was being given particular attention and was being broadcast live by China Radio International.

The invitation-only lunch was sponsored by the U.S.-China Business Council, think tanks like the Brookings Institution and other organizations.