Dialogue or Disaster

WASHINGTON, DC – China’s President Hu Jintao will start a four-day visit to the United States on January 18. Although Hu has been on several “working visits” to Washington, his upcoming trip will be his first official “state visit” since becoming president eight years ago. Given the great importance that China has traditionally attached to formalities, the Chinese government is repeatedly emphasizing that fact – and thus demonstrating its high expectations for the event.

China has made an enormous effort to manage every detail of the summit. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was sent to Washington last week to apply the final touches to the preparations. China also resumed high-level bilateral military exchanges, which it suspended a year ago to protest US arms sales to Taiwan. Robert Gates, the US

Secretary of Defense, was warmly welcomed by Hu and other Chinese leaders days before the Washington summit. He even toured the People’s Liberation Army’s missile corps. Obviously, China wants to cultivate a pleasant atmosphere for Hu’s state visit.

Most of the meeting’s agenda will be the same as at previous Sino-US summits. President Barack Obama will likely raise issues such as the bilateral trade imbalance, the Chinese government’s manipulation of the renminbi’s exchange rate, prevention of nuclear proliferation, recent tension on the Korean peninsula, international cooperation on climate change, and China’s poor human rights record.