Obama Begins Summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping

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Obama, Xi Open 2 Day Summit at California

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a two-day summit at a California desert estate, aiming for closer personal ties as they took on high-stakes issues including cyber security and North Korea’s nuclear threats.

“Our decision to meet so early ( in Xi’s term ) signifies the importance of the U.S.-China relationship,” Mr. 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, Mr. Obama said the United States is seeking an economic order “where nations are playing by the same rules, where trade is free and fair, and where the United States and China work together to address issues like cyber security and the protection of intellectual property.”

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

Mr. 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 cyber security.

“Inevitably there are areas of tension between our countries,” Mr. obama said, adding that it’s in the interest of both countries to work together.

Mr. 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.

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“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.

Mr. Obama arrived late in the day. Mr. Xi arrived in California on Thursday following a trip to Latin America, a region where China is seeking to expand its trade and influence.

Mr. Obama told donors at a Democratic fundraiser on Thursday that he understands the concerns many Americans have about the potential threat China’s rapid rise poses to the U.S.

“The transformation that’s taking place in China is extraordinary. And never in the history of humanity have we seen so many people move out of poverty so rapidly,” he said. “And yet, when you look at the challenges they face and you look at the challenges we face, I’ll take our challenges any day of the week.”

U.S. officials see Mr. Xi, who took office in March, as a potentially new kind of Chinese leader. He has deeper ties to the U.S. than many of his predecessors and appears more comfortable in public than the last president, Hu Jintao, with whom Mr. obama never developed a strong personal rapport.

Already the White House is encouraged that Mr. Xi agreed to the unusual California summit. The talks will be void of the formal pageantry that Chinese leaders often expect during state visits at the White House.

For the U.S., the most pressing matter is China’s alleged cyber-spying on the American government and on businesses. Mr. obama is expected to warn Mr. Xi against continuing such practices, which China publicly denies.

Ahead of the summit, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill began pushing legislation that would punish countries that launch cyber attacks against the U.S. The bill would authorize the administration to draw up a list of cyber spies, and allow the U.S. to deny or revoke visas to foreign agents guilty of cyber crimes.

Mr. Obama will also be looking to build on Mr. Xi’s apparent impatience with North Korea’s nuclear provocations. The U.S. has welcomed Mr. Xi’s recent calls for North Korea to return to nuclear talks, though it’s unclear whether Pyongyang is ready to change its behavior.

Mr. Xi is likely to press China’s claims of business discrimination in U.S. markets, and to express concern over Mr. obama’s efforts to expand U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region, which China sees as an attempt to contain its growing power.

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