Biden, Chinese Leaders Voice Confidence in U.S. Economy
BEIJING -- Vice President Joe Biden tried to reassure China's leaders Friday that its $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury debt is safe, while both sides stressed the importance of cooperation to revive world growth.
Biden's visit is aimed at learning about Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to become leader of the ruling Communist Party next year. But it has been overshadowed by U.S. economic uncertainty and Beijing's anxiety about the safety of its U.S. assets.
"The U.S. economy is highly resilient," Xi said as he and Biden held a round-table meeting with business leaders. "We believe that the U.S. economy will achieve even better development as it rises to challenges."
Premier Wen Jiabao, the ruling party's No. 3 leader, echoed that theme in a meeting with Biden later. Wen said he has "full confidence" the United States will "get its economy back on the track of healthy growth."
Chinese leaders have repeated that upbeat theme throughout Biden's visit, trying to project a responsible image and reassure jittery global markets.
Both sides stressed the importance of U.S.-Chinese cooperation to revive world growth, reflecting the array of trade and investment ties that link the world's two biggest economies despite tensions over human rights, Taiwan and other issues.
"It's particularly important that you have sent a clear message to the Chinese public that the U.S. will keep its word with regard to its government debt," Wen said. "It will preserve the safety, liquidity and value of U.S. Treasurys."
Biden reassured Wen about the security of China's U.S. bond holdings and said Washington "appreciates and welcomes" Chinese investment.
"I want to be clear that you have nothing to worry about," Biden said in the meeting at the Zhongnanhai compound where Chinese leaders live and work.
In a later meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Biden said President Barack Obama had tasked him with reaffirming America's "absolute and total commitment to stay engaged in the world in the most vigorous way possible."
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told reporters the discussions had also touched on U.S. actions toward Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory but which Washington is legally bound to provide with a credible defense. The U.S. is to decide by Oct. 1 -- before Xi's expected reciprocal visit to Washington -- on Taiwan's long-mooted bid to buy relatively advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets, a decision sure to raise tensions with Beijing.
Cui said the sides also discussed a range of global issues and that China urged a speedy resumption of six-nation North Korea disarmament talks. He declared the visit a success in boosting understanding between Biden and Xi.
"I think they've established a good working relationship," Cui said.
China's rising economic and military might have led both sides to call for better communication to solve issues that could flare into bigger problems and cooperation on issues including the economic crisis and the environment.
On Thursday, Biden expressed the "fond hope" the trip would lead to stronger personal relationships with Chinese leaders.
Friday's meeting with businesspeople was aimed at enhancing cooperation amid complaints by foreign companies about Chinese market barriers and by Beijing about U.S. export restrictions. It included executives of General Motors Co., Coca Cola Co., Caterpillar Inc., Bank of China Ltd., computer maker Lenovo Group and appliance brand Haier Group.
"We need to deepen cooperation," Xi said.
Biden acknowledged China's complaints about the difficulty of obtaining U.S. visas and noted foreign unhappiness about limitations on access to its markets, saying, "changes need to take place here in China as well."
During the meeting, officials and businesspeople discussed complaints by companies from both countries about access to each others' markets, said Richard Lavin, group president for Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar. He said the atmosphere was "very positive" but declined to give details of comments by Xi and other Chinese officials.
"We talked about restrictions inside China that make it problematic for U.S. investors," said Lavin. "U.S. representatives made commitments about continuing to open the United States to Chinese investment."
On Saturday, Xi and Biden travel to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, which suffered a massive earthquake in 2008. Biden will speak to high school students Sunday and visit quake reconstruction projects.
Beijing is Washington's biggest foreign creditor and has appealed to U.S. leaders to avoid taking steps in response to its economic malaise that might erode the value of the dollar and China's Treasury debt and other U.S. assets.
Ahead of Biden's arrival, state media carried comments by Chinese analysts appealing to Washington to avoid further stimulus moves by the Federal Reserve and to protect foreign investors in the United States.
Before the start of Friday's meeting, the president of Bank of China expressed hope for a stable dollar. He said 57 percent of the bank's $200 billion in foreign holdings is in dollar-based assets.
"We hope the U.S. dollar will remain stable," Li Lihui told reporters. "We are a little bit concerned, but we are confident that the U.S. government can solve its economic problems."