China’s President Xi Jinping Comes To America

Aug 28, 2015 by

Tom Watkins –

China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world”. –Napoléon Bonaparte

Next month China’s President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama will meet during Xi’s first state visit to the White House.

When the leaders of the United States and China meet, they hold in their hands not just the future of more than 300 million Americans and 1.3 billion Chinese, but virtually all of humanity.


The U.S./China connection continues to be the most important bilateral relationship on the planet today. It has been said that as the 21st century unfolds, every major world issue will intersect at the corner of Beijing and Washington, D.C.

There are no lack of world “problems” for President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama to talk about during Xi’s first state visit to the White House in September.

Between the appetizer and dessert, here are a sampling of what might serve as entree items both during and after a state dinner at the White House: Calming tensions on the Korean Peninsula, climate change and environmental protection, Iran’s nuclear program, cyber-spying, the South China Sea, China’s economic bubble and the global economy, an expanding Chinese military, Chinese currency policy, global terrorism and how to contain ISIS, the situation in Ukraine, China’s global reach in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. Just to name a few.

As the time for the Chinese visit to the U.S. nears, guaranteed there is much behind the scenes diplomacy going on between our two nations as officials finalize the agenda for the two world leaders to navigate.

Strength and Global Uncertainty


President Xi is coming to America at a time of both strength and contradiction for China.

The remarkable rise of China’s economy and military are obvious even as the slowing of their economy contains the seeds of both domestic and international economic discord. As former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” This is true of China as well.

A recent move by Chinese leaders to devalue its currency will increase the tension between our two countries. It is also a release valve to help with the domestic pressures building in China as fear of that country’s economic bubble bursting intensifies. As China’s economy sputters, a weaker currency will help prop up the country’s exporters and create jobs for Chinese citizens at a time when global economists are urging China to shift its economy from low cost manufacturing to a more consumer-driven, service economy.

America is dealing with it own set of domestic challenges as pressure builds on President Obama from a bipartisan coalition of senators to make human rights a front, center, and public component of talks with Xi.

Human Rights activists claim that since President Xi came to power, China’s human rights record has worsened. Adding to the tension, China considers “human rights” an internal affairs issue and rejects any outside interference.

China is also demanding that the Obama administration extradite to China a wealthy and politically- connected businessman, Ling Wancheng, who fled to the United States. Mr. Ling is the youngest brother of Ling Jihua, who for years held a post equivalent to that of the White House Chief of Staff, overseeing the Communist Party’s inner sanctum as director of its General Office. Ling Jihua is one of the highest-profile casualties of an anti-corruption campaign that Mr. Xi has made a centerpiece of government policy.

Many claim that should Mr. Ling seek political asylum, he could become one of the most damaging defectors in the history of modern China.

This issue, like many involving the inner-workings of diplomacy between our countries, could be the “spark that started a raging forest fire,” or could flame out before President Xi’s arrival.

The midnight oil is clearly being burned to snuff out these incendiary issues out before they burn any brighter than they already have.

The American Silly Season


The American presidential election is more than a year away but is heating up as candidates jockey for exposure. Many, most notably Republican front runner Donald Trump, are taking political shots at China around the voter rich, low-hanging fruit of anti-China rants that they hope will garner attention and votes.

Sadly, blaming China for our economic woes is a cynic’s sport aimed at scaring working-class Americans into tossing their vote to the biggest China basher. Making China the “boogieman” diverts American voters’ attention away from the domestic policy failures of our current political leaders.

American elections need to be about adding and multiplying jobs — not election year subtraction and division.

Bashing China will not create a single American job.

Imagine A “Nixon Goes To China” Moment


Few expect major agreements or breakthroughs during Xi’s visit –a trip largely expected to be a photo-op for domestic Chinese consumption and to strengthen connections and avoid or contain conflicts.

Many China watchers believe the visit is an attempt by both nations to take stock of their relationship and patch over any rough spots during Obama’s remaining years in office.

Yet, what if President Xi and President Obama defy conventional wisdom, go bold and grasp this moment in history to actually pledge to work together to solve major world issues?

Climate change, efforts to combat the Islamic State, calming tensions in the Korean Peninsula, curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, and breaking down trade barriers that stifle global economic growth would be a good start.

The competition and cooperation between China and the U.S. on multiple levels will continue to ebb and flow. However, we must reject the hawks’ view – from both sides of the Pacific – that confrontation is inevitable.


President Xi and President Obama may well become as bold and visionary as Mao and Nixon were in their day –shocking the world with a commitment between the two greatest nations on earth for global peace, prosperity and progress for all humanity.

Dear President Xi and Obama: Please break bread and ban that outdated mold of world power confrontation. Let the world know that when our two country’s friendship blossoms, collaboration and cooperation can result. We can awaken and jointly shake the world for the better.

All of humanity will be watching.

PS –Gov. Snyder is in China this week. Expect him to continue to expand Michigan’s reach around the globe helping to create jobs and investment here at home.

Unlike what is taking place in the national stage, our governor is not interested in using China for division and subtraction– but for addition and multiplication of jobs and investment opportunities here in “Pure Michigan.”

GOP front runner Donald Trump, like two sanctimonious Michigan state reps has a hypocrisy problem:


Tom Watkins serves on the University of Michigan Confucius Institute Board of Advisors and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation International Advisory Board.

Source: China’s President Xi Jinping Comes To America

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