Five Issues Looming Large Over Chinese President's State Visit

Five Issues Looming Large Over Chinese President's State Visit

The visit of Pope Francis to Washington this week brought pomp and circumstance to the White House along with cheers and chants from massive crowds throughout the nation’s capital. 

However, it largely overshadowed what will no doubt be a more tense, and arguably more critical meeting between two world powers when Chinese President Xi Jinping joins President Obama at the White House on Friday. 

At a time when relations between the two countries is seen by many experts as its most adversarial in decades, here are five of the top issues looming over Xi’s state visit. 


One of the most glaring issues at the forefront of Xi’s first White House visit is allegations of cyber-espionage between the two nations. 

It was only Tuesday that White House officials confirmed no sanctions would be brought against China ahead of Xi’s visit, though those same officials said sanctions are certainly still on the table once the Chinese leader leaves Washington. 

The White House has still not publicly blamed the Chinese for the hack on the Office of Personnel Management that compromised 21.5 million Americans’ Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. But that isn’t stopping President Obama from publicly calling out the Chinese government for its hacking practices against American businesses and the U.S. government. 

“This isn’t a mild irritation. It is an economic and national security concern to the United States,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Monday. “As my critics allege, I am rather direct. I assure you that President Obama will be just as direct when he sees President Xi.” 

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The issue has even escalated to the point where American officials have made arrests of Chinese citizens charging them with spying or hacking, and just this past week Chinese officials their investigation of an American woman being held in China over suspicion she threatened national security. 

Xi sought to apply some bandage to the issue during a visit to Seattle earlier this week, saying hacking against government networks constitutes a crime that “must be punished in accordance with the law.” 

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The U.S. has also raised issue with what it has classified as China’s “destabilizing activities” in the disputed territories in the South China Sea. 

Through satellite images and spy plane missions, the world has watched as China has raised islands, paved runways and stationed ships in the waters, also a key trade route for U.S. ships. 

The Pentagon has been one of the harshest critics of China’s island building, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter warning of the “potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict” and calling for “an immediate and lasting halt.” 

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In a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies over Xi’s visit, Bonnie Glaser said she believed it would be “the most contentious issue” between the two presidents. 

“The Chinese I talked to, both civilian and military, say that they have invested very heavily in these artificial islands and they are going to complete their plans,” Glaser said. “The only thing that is potentially up for discussion later on will be about what kind of deployments in terms of military assets the Chinese are going to put on the islands.” 

In May, the U.S. Navy released video showing a verbal confrontation between a U.S. spy plane flying over the new islands and the Chinese Navy, which advised the pilots to “please go away,” later saying, “your action is dangerous.” 

In what was largely interpreted as a retaliatory response, earlier this month a group of Chinese naval vessels came within 12 miles of the Alaskan coastline following a joint military exercise with Russia. 


White House officials also say President Obama will push President Xi over its economic activities, such as competitive currency devaluation and exploitation of intellectual property. 

The world witnessed as what many labeled as a stock market crash in China last month reverberated throughout the global economy, also rattling some U.S. markets. 

Deputy National Security Adviser Caroline Atkinson said Tuesday that it’s time China embraces the responsibilities that allowed it to grow into the world’s second-largest economy. 

“I think the way we see it is that this rules-based international order, which we have in the economic sphere as well, supported China’s rise,” Atkinson said. “China can’t be a free-rider on the international system.” 


Leading up to Xi’s state visit, GOP presidential candidates have shifted focus to lambasting President Obama for what they are labeling as diplomatic capitulation by hosting Xi for the highly revered state visit. 

The current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has made China a focus throughout his many speeches, using his background in business to fashion himself as a master negotiator who would put the U.S. in a position of strength on trade deals. 

Trump’s rhetoric has even prompted pushback from China’s foreign ministry, which called his comments “disturbances,” and out of line with mainstream public opinion. 

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Several other GOP candidates have used the occasion to remark on Obama’s "pivot to Asia" as another foreign policy failure, and pushed for him to downgrade the visit from a state dinner to a “working visit.” 

Rice said Monday that those positions amounted to "a dangerous and short-sighted view." 

"If we sought to punish China by cancelling meetings or refusing to engage them, we would only be punishing ourselves," Rice said. "If America chose to remove itself from China, we would only ensure that the Chinese are not challenged on the issues where we differ and are not encouraged to peacefully rise within the international system that we have done so much to build.” 


National Security Director for Asian Affairs Dan Kritenbrink said Tuesday that Xi should not expect Obama to “paper over the differences” when it comes to Washington’s complaints over human rights violations in China. 

“I think increasingly we’ve been concerned about certain steps that China has taken domestically through various national security-related laws that really seem to be designed to further constrict the operations of civil society,” Kritenbrink told reporters on a conference call. 

In her speech at George Washington University on Monday, Rice raised issue with individuals unjustly detained, as well as the restrictions placed on freedom of expression and assembly that have sparked widespread protests in the country over the past year. 

Rice also called out China for its recent draft of a law that would place severe restrictions on non-governmental organizations seeking to operate in China. 

“The draft foreign NGO law that China is considering would be another step in the wrong direction, threatening the very organizations that have promoted China’s development and advanced the friendship between our peoples,” Rice said.

Five Issues Looming Large Over Chinese President's State Visit Five Issues Looming Large Over Chinese President's State Visit Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 8:22 PM Rating: 5

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