Obama to tackle critical security, economic issues with China's Hu

President Obama will try to enhance the U.S.’s growing and increasingly critical relationship with China this week when President Hu Jintao visits for a U.S.-Sino summit.

The White House and business groups expect Hu to come bearing gifts.

ADVERTISEMENT
China’s president will see his term end next year, and is keen to have a summit that will add to his legacy.

For business, that means Hu will likely sign a series of contracts helpful to U.S. companies. Those contracts also could be useful to a White House focused on reducing the unemployment rate.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President for International Affairs Myron Brilliant told reporters he expects China to sign a number of contracts with U.S. companies during the visit. “Hu Jintao very much wants this meeting to go well,” said Brilliant, who added that he’d received the message from a number of Chinese officials.

To have a successful meeting, Brilliant said Hu needs to bring deals and make progress on the geopolitical issues. The number one geopolitical issue for the administration when it comes to China is North Korea, which launched a missile attack in November on a South Korean island.

“I suspect he has to say something on North Korea,” Brilliant said.

Administration officials on Friday offered a preview of what they’d like to hear from Hu.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a major address Friday said China must send “an unequivocal message” that North Korea’s recent provocations are “unacceptable and in violation of Security Council resolutions and North Korea’s own commitments.”

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters at the White House that the administration wants China to understand that North and South Korea “are on a path to present a threat to the region, but they also are on a path to present a very important threat to the U.S.”

He said “that analysis needs to be taken into account by the Chinese, and we’ve been working with them on that.”

Hu is scheduled to land at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Tuesday evening, where he will be greeted by Vice President Joe Biden and second lady Jill Biden.

Hu will join Obama, Donilon and Clinton and their Chinese counterparts at an “unusually small” working dinner in the White House's Family Dining Room, Donilon said.


On Wednesday, Obama and Hu will engage in bilateral meetings and address Chinese and U.S. business CEOs before attending a joint press conference at the White House.

The meeting with CEOs will allow Hu and Obama to talk to business leaders about ways to “expand trade and investment opportunities,” Donilon said. Brilliant highlighted the meeting as reflecting the importance of this summit.

Hu is expected to address House and Senate leadership on Thursday.

Donilon said Obama and Hu will focus on “four baskets” of the relationship, including the overall relationship, security and political issues, economic issues and human rights.

The second basket, security and political issues, will include discussions about North Korea, Iran and Sudan.

Though the two leaders are likely to meet on the margins of international events this year, because Hu's term as Chinese president will end in 2012 this is probably the last face-to-face summit for the two leaders.

The importance of the event is reflected in the attention Cabinet members have paid China in recent days. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Beijing this week, while Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Clinton both made major speeches on China this week. So did Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Brilliant said another meeting of this nature is unlikely until at least 2013, underlining the importance of Obama and Hu laying out a vision for the relationship going forward.

“This might be the most significant visit in 10-15 years at this level,” he said.