Obama raises cybersecurity, economy in summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with US President Barack Obama at the Annenberg Retreat, California, the United States, June 7, 2013. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, met Friday to exchange views on major issues of common concern. Photo: Xinhua

Opening a two-day summit, President Barack Obama drew attention to contentious economic and cybersecurity issues Friday night as he warmly received Chinese President Xi Jinping to a California desert estate for high-stakes talks.

Under a shaded walkway as temperatures surged above 100 degrees, the two leaders — in white shirts and suit coats but no ties — greeted each other and walked side by side to start their first in-person meetings since Xi took office in March.

"Our decision to meet so early (in Xi's term) signifies the importance of the U.S.-China relationship," Obama said. He noted the unusual setting and said he hoped for "more extended" and informal talks that will lead to a "new model of cooperation" between countries.

Previewing their talks, Obama said the United States is seeking an "economic order where nations are playing by the same rules and where the United States and China work together on issues like cybersecurity." Obama said he would also stress the importance of human rights, another sensitive issue with the Chinese.

For his part, Xi did not mention cybersecurity, human rights or North Korea, another area of potential tensions between the two powers.

Speaking through a translator, Xi said both leaders were "meeting today to chart the future of U.S.-china relations." He added that the world has "reaped huge benefits" for the relationship between both countries.

"Today I meet here with President Obama to map out a blueprint for the development of China-U.S. relations and conduct cooperation across the Pacific Ocean," the Chinese president said.

More than four decades ago, Xi said, the then leaders of the two countries opened the door for China-U.S. interactions with political courage and wisdom, making a "handshake across the Pacific Ocean."

Noting that their relationship now stands at a new starting point, Xi said the two countries share important converging interests, from promoting each other's economic development and steady global economic recovery to addressing international and regional hot issues and global challenges.

Xi stressed that China and the United States, under new circumstances, should have an in-depth review of their ties.

"What kind of a relationship do we need? What type of cooperation should China and the United States have to achieve win-win results? How can both countries work together to promote peace and development in the world? These questions are major concerns not only of the two countries and two peoples, but also of the whole international community," he said.

Cybersecurity

On the issue of cybersecurity, the U.S. has started bringing its complaints about persistent Chinese computer-hacking into the open after years of quiet and largely unsuccessful diplomacy. It has accused Beijing's government and military of computer-based attacks against America. While there have been no actual admissions of guilt, Chinese leaders have started acknowledging there is a problem and U.S. officials say the Chinese seem more open to working with the U.S. to address it.

But China has asserted they, too, are often the victim of cyberattacks, including those that could be emanating from the U.S. — a line of argument that could be emboldened by new revelations that the U.S. extensively scours the Internet usage of foreign nationals overseas.

The two leaders were meeting at the 200-acre Sunnylands estate just outside Palm Springs, Calif. They were to take questions from reporters Friday evening after a bilateral meeting, then hold a working dinner Friday night and additional talks Saturday morning.

Obama, seated next to Secretary of State John Kerry, said the U.S. welcomes the rise of a peaceful China and seeks "economic order where nations are playing by the same rules." He called for the U.S. and China to work together to address cybersecurity.

"Inevitably there are areas of tension between our countries," Obama said, adding that it's in the interest of both countries to work together.

However, Obama's urging of Xi to stop reported Chinese hacking against the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 programs for the first time Friday morning. He said the efforts strike "the right balance" between security and civil liberties as the U.S. 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.


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