US President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping have agreed to work together to try to resolve disputes over cyber security, a major irritant between the world’s top two economic powers.
Hosting Xi at a two-day summit in a luxurious desert estate in southern California, Obama said on Friday that the US welcomes China’s “peaceful rise” but made clear that Beijing must play by the same rules of economic world order as other major nations.
The US had accused Chinese hackers of accessing American military secrets, an accusation China denies, and the White House itself faces questions at home over its own surveillance of emails and phone records.
Obama did not shy away from the issue of cyber spying in the first day of closed-door meetings, but he took a cautious line at a news conference, stopping short of pointing the finger directly at China or threatening any consequences.
With Xi making his first US visit since taking over the presidency in March, both sides appeared intent on giving the impression of a constructive tone at a summit billed as a get-to-know-you encounter at the sprawling Sunnylands compound near Palm Springs.
We believe that a peaceful and stable and prosperous China is not only good for Chinese but also good for the world and for the US.
Xi expressed the hope for deeper co-operation, saying China and the United States could build a new model of “big country” relations.
Speaking to reporters at the start of Friday’s talks, Obama said he wanted to achieve a “new model of co-operation” with China – a goal many feel eluded him in his first term when dealing with former Chinese president Hu Jintao.
“Our decision to meet so early, I think, signifies the importance of the U.S.-China relationship. It’s important not only for the prosperity of our two countries and the security of our two countries, but it’s also important for the Asia Pacific region and important for the world,” Obama said.
Obama said it was in the interest of the US that China continued on the path of success “because we believe that a peaceful and stable and prosperous China is not only good for Chinese but also good for the world and for the United States”.
Obama said as two of the world’s largest economies, the US and China were aiming to have a healthy economic competition.
But he added that the two nations had a “whole range of challenges on which we have to cooperate”. These, Obama said, include North Korea and its nuclear and missile programmes, nuclear proliferation and climate change.
Obama urged Xi to stop reported Chinese hacking against the US, but his call could be overshadowed by new revelations that Obama’s own administration has been secretly collecting information about phone and internet use.
The actions of both China and the US underscore the vast technological powers that governments can tap to gather information covertly from individuals, companies and other governments.
Obama, seeking to keep the matter from trailing him through two days of China meetings, addressed the surveillance programmes for the first time on Friday morning.
He said the efforts strike “the right balance” between security and civil liberties as the US combats terrorism.
“You can’t have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society,” he said during a health care event in Northern California.
For his part, Xi said the talks would help chart the future of China-US relations and “draw a blueprint for this relationship”.
He said in more than 40 years the China-US relationship “has gone through winds and rains and it made historical progress”.
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“Our two peoples and the people elsewhere in the world have reaped huge benefits from this,” Xi said.
“And at present, the China-U.S. relationship has reached a new historical starting point. Our two countries have vast convergence of shared interests, from promoting our respective economic growth at home to ensuring the stability of the global economy.”
Xi said on all issues including dealing with international and regional hotspot and global challenges, the two countries needed to increase exchanges and cooperation.
“And under the new environment, we need to take a close look at our bilateral relationship: What kind of China-U.S. relationship do we both want?” Xi said.
“What kind of cooperation can our two nations carry out for mutual benefit? And how can our two nations join together to promote peace and development in the world? These are things that not just the people in our two countries are watching closely, but the whole world is also watching very closely.”
Xi said he looked forward to in-depth communication with Obama, adding he was confident the meeting would “achieve positive outcomes and inject fresh momentum into the China-U.S. relationship”.