Obama spends Valentine's Day with future Chinese leader

Washington : US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (C) during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 14, 2012. (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
It’s an East-meets-West love story that is sure to warm your heart this Valentine’s Day. They overcame obstacles and defied the odds, but that will all be in the past.

US President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will be together at last.

Vice President Xi has several stops scheduled during his visit to the US  this week, but he will begin his American adventure in Washington, DC. It is there that the China VP — and expected future president of the country — will converse with the US commander-in-chief and other administration officials on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for future relationships between the two great nations. Relations have been better between the US and China, however, and the discussions between parties this week could largely impact the relationship between the two superpowers in the years to come.

Xi, 58, is currently only second in command in China. By the end of this year, however, he is expected to take charge of the nation’s Communist Party and then assume the country’s presidency in March 2013. At that point, his tenure as head of state could extend well into the next decade, as the term comes with a life expectancy of a full decade. While a stay in office for that long isn’t likely for President Obama, discussions this week are expected to touch on issues that will influence how the two countries will interact over the coming years, regardless of who will take the oath of office in America during the next decade.

Although the US has long-established itself as an economic and military leader, China has been at its heels for years. Currently China holds second-place standing in both those contests. As the latest US Defense plan calls for a weakening of combat forces internationally and the country continues to see tumultuous economic times, the tides could turn during Xi’s expected upcoming administration.

Given the competitive status of both nations — and the tensions between them — the next few years could be crucial.

“Judging from the present situation of China-US relations, the strategic mutual trust between the two sides still lags far behind the common interests they actually share,” advisers to current-Chinese President Hu Jintao write in the English-language China Daily newspaper.

In a statement of his own, Xi adds to the Washington Post, “We welcome a constructive role by the United States in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region,” but notes that “We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interest and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries.”

Chinese officials have been critical of the US Defense Department particularly since the Pentagon announced last month that they would be bulking up their presence overseas. "We have noted that the United States issued this guide to its defense strategy, and we will closely observe the impact that US military strategic adjustment has on the Asia-Pacific region and on global security developments," China Ministry of Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng responded at the time.

"We hope that the United States will flow with the tide of the era, and deal with China and the Chinese military in an objective and rational way, will be careful in its words and actions and do more that is beneficial to the development of relations between the two countries and their militaries,” he added.

Xi himself adds to the Post, "At a time when people long for peace, stability and development, to deliberately give prominence to the military security agenda, scale up military deployment and strengthen military alliances is not really what most countries in the region hope to see.”

In his visit this week, Xi is expected to meet with US leaders that visualize cooperation in the years to come. Aside from chatting in the Oval Office with President Obama on Tuesday, his agenda this week also includes chats with veteran US national security advisers and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Xi will also stop in the state of Iowa and drop by Los Angeles, California. There on the West Coast he will take part in an investment-promotion event held in conjunction by China's Ministry of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Outside of the White House though, some US politicians are weary of working that close with the Far East. Only months earlier, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told supporters, “I want to beat China. I want to go to war with China, and make America the most attractive place in the world to do business.” Other Republican Party members have expressed worry over the competition’s increasing economy and military, and some in China even think they should be. Only three months ago, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission predicted that the yuan, also called the renminbi or RMB for short, could compete against the American dollar as the world’s reserve currency in a matter of only a decade.

"By 2030, this dominance could resemble that of the United States in the 1970s and the United Kingdom around 1870. And this economic dominance will in turn elevate the renminbi to premier reserve currency status much sooner than currently expected,” economist Arvind Subramanian also noted in his latest book, Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance.