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Biden making confidence-building trip to China

August 16, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Pete Souza, White House )

Vice President Joe Biden leaves Washington on Tuesday for a week-long tour of East Asia, where he is expected to preach confidence about the nation’s financial well-being and work to build a relationship with the future leadership of its largest foreign creditor.

The White House is billing the trip to China, Mongolia and Japan as part of an effort to “renew and intensify” America’s role in a region of increasing significance.

In China, the U.S. vice president will spend a considerable amount of time with the man considered likely to become the country’s new president, Vice President Xi Jingping.

“Simply put, we’re investing in the future of the U.S.-China relationship,” Tony Blinken, national security adviser to the vice president, told reporters Monday.

The visit was announced in January when Chinese President Hu Jintao was honored at a state dinner in Washington. Aides said the vice president's visit will be the first time a senior U.S. official has spent substantive time with Xi. Xi is expected to make a reciprocal visit to Washington this fall.

Biden will also meet with Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders, only weeks after the settlement of the debt-ceiling crisis and the subsequent downgrade of the nation’s credit rating.

Experts said the vice president’s visit will be one of reassurance. China has sent stern warnings to the U.S. about getting its fiscal house in order.

Considering his key role in the budget talks, aides say Biden is well-suited to discuss the steps America is taking to do so, while also urging the Chinese to continue taking necessary steps to diversify their economy.

“Obviously, the United States has the capacity, the will, and the commitment to tackle our major fiscal and economic challenges,” said Lael Brainard, undersecretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department. “China has a huge interest in strong growth in the United States. And, again, there are a lot of strengths of the U.S. economy that I think China is quite interested in helping to learn about.”

After three days of meetings in the capital of Beijing, Biden and Xi will travel to the inland city of Chengdu, a growing commercial hub, where the vice president will make a major speech on the U.S.-China relationship. In 1979, Biden was on the first congressional delegation to China since the normalization of relations, and will use the speech to trace the history of that relationship.

Biden’s trip to Mongolia will be the first by a U.S. vice president since 1944, when Henry Wallace stopped there. He is expected to highlight the nation's transition to a democracy and build on the growing relationship with the emerging regional power.

The trip ends in Japan, a visit meant to show support for the key ally after the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

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