ABC News’ Karson Yiu (@karsonwhy) reports:
Vice President Joe Biden was formally welcomed to China Thursday morning by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in an elaborate ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.
Biden is on a week-long mission to East Asia that includes four days in China, where the administration says he will invest in the future of Sino-American relations by trying to get to know Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping a little bit better. Xi is expected to become China’s next leader.
In opening remarks, both Xi and Biden recognized the increasing interdependence between the two countries, as well as their common challenges — the economic kind in particular . They both stressed that cooperation was imperative.
The two men will be spending a lot of time together during Biden’s China visit, which was described as a unique opportunity to “regularize and personalize” a relationship with the future Chinese leader.
In a background briefing, senior administration officials described the meetings today as “candid” but not in usually diplomatic speak, which could mean “heated” or ”argumentative.”
They described the two men as having a genuine back and forth, talking about a huge range of issues, from security issues like North Korea, Iran and Pakistan to the economy. The American official found it “frankly unusual for leaders to engage so deeply on such a broad spectrum.” They engaged so deeply that the smaller, closed press meeting between Biden and Xi ran 45 minutes into “overtime.”
The senior administration officials said that in stark contrast to what is being said in the Chinese media about the U.S.’s economic prospects, Xi and his delegation are actually bullish on the U.S. economy, especially after the debt deal that the officials said that Biden was instrumental in ushering through.
As for Xi himself, the officials found him to be a “cool,” “deliberate,””confident” and “extremely engaged” leader, who was “clearly relishing the opportunity to sit down with a global peer.”
Tomorrow Biden will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
The only hiccup of Biden’s first day came when some of the press pool, mainly the prints journalists, were forcibly shoved out of the initial bilateral meeting before Biden had actually finished speaking. The Chinese press minders essentially told reporters the time was up and that Biden was going on far too long.
Probably having immediately mass-tweeted about the incident afterwards, when the pool was asked to leave an afternoon meeting between Biden and the Chair of the National People’s Congress Wu Bangguo, it was done in a slightly more cordial manner, without physical contact.
Apart from meetings, VP Biden took in a meal with his granddaughter Naomi, her mother and U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke and his wife, Mona. They all ate at “Yao’s Fried Liver Restaurant” – a very local and very crowded Beijing restaurant in the historic Drum Tower district. They did not try the fried liver, instead opting for pork buns and noodles. Some good color here with the local Beijingers.