Vice-President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., is in China on an official five-day visit to Beijing and the western city of Chengdu that will likely be focused on the downgrading of the US’s debt and its effect on the world economy. He is visiting at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who is expected to take over the chairmanship of the Chinese Community Party in 2012 and to become president in March 2013. The visit comes at a delicate time in US-China relations: With $1.17 trillion in US Treasury securities, China is the largest holder of US foreign debt and recently issued its displeasure at the US losing its AAA credit rating with scoldings about the US’s “addiction to debt.”
As China’s Xinhua news service reports, Biden first visited China 32 years ago, as a member of the first US delegation after relations were normalized between the two countries after years of estrangement. As a young member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden said “A rising China is a positive, positive development, not only for China but for America and the world writ large.” According to Xinhua, while addressing the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue in May, Biden said he still maintains those words.
Despite China’s anxiety about US debt, the New York Times reports that, on Monday, the United States Treasury Department released statistics showing that China had increased its holding of US securities in June by $5.7 billion, to a total of $1.17 trillion.
The Chinese media has emphasized that economic issues would be at the forefront of Biden’s visit; Lael Brainard, under secretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department, says that Biden will be trying to promote US economic interests in China. In just the past year, US exports to China have grown more than those of any other country in the world, to over $1 billion. Biden will also press China to appreciate its currency, the renminbi, which economists say is undervalued, allowing Chinese exports to have a huge advantage in the global marketplace.
Also on the agenda will be the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, which China wields influence over, and human rights issues including urging China to renews its dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama. The sensitive issue of US arms sales to Taiwan will probably not be addressed: The US has until October 1 to decide to sell 66 new generation F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. Chinese officials are (not surprisingly) against the sale.
The first thing the Vice President did after being greeted by Chinese officials after his plane landed was to attend a basketball game between the Georgetown Hoyas and a team from Shanxi Province at the Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium. Biden told reporters that many with connections to the Washington, DC-university had requested he attend.
After five days in China, Biden will also visit Japan and Mongolia, says the BBC.
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Photo taken during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the US in January of 2011 by USDA Gov