China has effusive praise for last week's trip by its vice president to the United States, saying the visit comes at an important time and helps strengthen what it is calling one of the world's most important bilateral relationships.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei gave lengthy comments Monday, in which he described Vice President Xi Jinping's trip to the United States as a “big event in Sino-American relations.”
He says Beijing sees the trip as a success, in terms of further implementing a cooperative Sino-American partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. He adds that China views the visit as one of great significance.
Vice President Xi had high-profile meetings in Washington, but also memorable visits in other parts of the country. In Iowa, he went to the small town of Muscatine to renew acquaintances with people he first met when he visited the farming community as a lower-level official 27 years ago. In California, he stopped off to see a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game.
The director of Tsinghua University's Center for China-U.S. Relations, Sun Zhe, says the Chinese vice president's trip was a success on the political as well as the personal level.
He says the two countries want to stabilize their relations through such high-level meetings. He adds it is only natural that Americans are curious about Xi because he is in line to become China's president next year.
Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says the trip also provided a chance for Chinese people to get to know their future leader better.
“Much of the visit is for domestic consumption -- so the leadership wants ordinary Chinese watching television displays of Xi Jinping as the future general secretary and president, showing his capacity for diplomacy, his ability to hold his own with the leaders of the superpowers," he said. "And also his capacity for some kind of international statesmanship.”
At the same time, Lam says the visit was short on concrete achievements, and he especially points to U.S. concerns about China's currency exchange rate and trade practices.
One brewing issue involves a Chinese company's high-profile lawsuit, which charges American computer giant Apple with infringing on its copyright of the iPad name in China.
Lam says he thinks these kinds of trade-related disputes will be increasingly troublesome as the U.S. presidential election campaign heats up. At the same time, he says China is undergoing its own leadership transition later this year, and does not want to be seen as -- in his words -- “being bullied by the United States.”
"I think the Apple case shows that there is only so much that the Chinese side is willing to give, and they will seek the opportunity to retaliate, to exploiting individual cases to make a larger point and to demonstrate that they can stand up to Americans,” Lam explained.
The Chinese vice president traveled from the United States to Ireland. He also stops in Turkey before returning to China.