China’s Xi offers cooperation, confidence in US policy speech

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China is ready to cooperate with the United States on issues from cyber crime to the environment, President Xi Jinping told political and business leaders in Seattle Tuesday.

“We must read each other’s strategic intentions correctly,” and “stick to the right direction” in bilateral relations, he said.

“We want to see more understanding and trust, less estrangement and suspicion, in order to forestall misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

Xi spoke before a banquet of more than 750 US and Chinese officials and business leaders at the start of an eight-day trip to the United States.

The dinner co-sponsored by the National Committee on US-China Relations and the US-China Business Council was the first event of a two-day stopover in the north-western city of Seattle ahead of what is expected to be a contentious state visit to the nation’s capital Thursday.

The Seattle visit is designed to showcase China’s strong business relationships with the west coast, at a time diplomatic ties have soured over allegations of Chinese cyber espionage, over its economic policy and over its sabre-rattling in the South and East China Seas.

Speaking to US guests including Bill and Melinda Gates, a dozen chief executives of US companies, including Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Xi sought to soothe some concerns while refusing to budge on others.

He insisted China would “never” participate in cyber attacks on commercial or government interests, and said China itself had been a victim of hacking.

He defended his government’s intervention after the country’s recent stock market crash as necessary to “prevent massive panic,” and said that the Chinese economy was still “operating within the proper range.

US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who extended an official welcome on behalf of US President Barack Obama remarks before Xi’s speech, urged him to realign China’s economy toward domestic markets, and voiced US business concerns about transparency, copyright protections, and discriminatory cyber and technology policies in Chinese business.

“We expect to have candid and constructive discussions on these matters in the coming days,” she said. “But it is absolutely in our mutual economic self interest to resolve these issues.”

Xi’s arrival in Seattle Tuesday morning was greeted with pomp and protests.

More than three dozen local officials, including former US Ambassador to China Gary Locke and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, waited to welcome him along a red carpet laid out before his presidential airplane, according to the Seattle Times.

Local media reported hundreds more people lined Xi’s motorcade route to downtown Seattle, some waving banners in support of the president, but others in protest of his government’s human rights record and ban on the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

On Wednesday, Xi will turn his focus back to business, speaking at a morning roundtable with Seattle-area business leaders, including chief executives of Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon, then touring Boeing’s factory at Everett, Washington, the Seattle Times reported.

On Wednesday afternoon, he is expected on the Microsoft campus for a US-China Internet Industry Forum and likely meetings with more tech titans, including a possible appearance by Apple chief executive Tim Cook, before making a nostalgic visit to a Tacoma, Washington, high school he visited as a provincial official in 1993.

Xi will depart Thursday for Washington where he will meet US President Barack Obama for a visit that will include an official state dinner.

From the US capital, he will travel to New York, where he will address the UN General Assembly on Monday.

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