China’s vice president received a warmer welcome at an economic forum in Los Angeles on Friday than he seemed to get in Washington earlier in the week.
But beneath the glad-handing surface were some of the same tensions that were on display when Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met with his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, on Tuesday. Biden took China to task on several fronts, including trade policies and intellectual property rights.
Xi appeared in downtown Los Angeles with state and federal officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and they all pledged economic cooperation.
“We can help each other, help ourselves and help the people of the entire world,” Brown said.
Villaraigosa announced plans to open a tourism office in the city of Chongqing. It would be Los Angeles’ second outpost in China. A Beijing office opened in 2006.
Aside from the pleasantries, however, was unease over Chinese trade policies and piracy issues.
Although American exports to China have grown strongly in the last two years, the trade deficit between the two countries has widened as imports from China also rose, said U.S. Commerce Secretary John E. Bryson.
“We have to work harder to achieve balanced trade growth,” said Bryson, the former chief executive of Edison International, as Xi looked on impassively.
Xi defended China’s trade record, saying in prepared remarks that the notion of China benefiting disproportionately from unfettered U.S. markets, while closing its home market to U.S. companies, is mistaken. Inexpensive Chinese goods, Xi said, have given the average U.S. household the equivalent of $1,000 in disposable income.
“China has indeed benefited a lot … [but] so has the United States,” Xi said. “Both China and the United States are winners.”