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Deep Economic Ties Keep U.S., China Engaged


A busy week of diplomacy wraps up tonight when President Obama presides over a state dinner honoring China's president, Xi Jinping. There's still plenty of work to do today on issues that divide the two countries. But as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, deep economic ties help keep both sides engaged.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The two presidents approached this summit on a somewhat different economic footing than they have in the past. China's economic juggernaut hit the brakes over the summer. And Sean Miner, who runs the China program at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says markets worldwide were rattled by the government's unsteady response.

SEAN MINER: The Chinese president is coming into this not as confident in his economy as he would like to be. You look at the U.S. side, the U.S. has recently been on a very good streak economically, so Obama will have a little bit more pep in his step.

HORSLEY: Obama is likely to press Xi on just how he's managing his country's economic slowdown. The two presidents also have other commercial complaints to discuss, including China's alleged theft of trade secrets and protectionism. U.S. exports to China continue to languish, though Miner says the Chinese president put a dent in the trade deficit this week with a high-flying purchase.

MINER: President Xi announced that China will purchase 300 Boeing planes over the next 10 years.

HORSLEY: Former White House China adviser Kenneth Lieberthal says for all this stilted formality of today's state visit, any real progress likely came last night when the two presidents met for a private dinner across the street. Lieberthal, who's now at the Brookings Institution, says while the U.S.-China relationship might not be the best in the world, it's still the most consequential.

KENNETH LIEBERTHAL: For the big issues of the future, every one of those issues becomes more manageable where the U.S. and China either cooperate or can work at least in broadly parallel directions. It becomes much less manageable when we're operating at cross purposes.

HORSLEY: One area where the two presidents are cooperating is climate change. And China's expected to offer some details of its own climate plans today, included a national cap and trade system set to launch in 2017. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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