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Getting to know Xi: White House prepares to meet China's new man

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“His capacity to deal with the US in a way that induces respect and to show that he can handle the US effectively…is extremely important” to his peers in Beijing, says Professor Lieberthal.

Officials and analysts on both sides of the Pacific point to a fundamental flaw in the most important bilateral relationship in the world: Neither side trusts the other.

“The trust deficit sums up a very clear fact,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said here last week. “The level of mutual trust between China and the United States lags behind what is required for the further expansion of our bilateral relationship. Vice President Xi’s visit will present a very important opportunity to further enhance our mutual trust.”

The list of policy issues over which Beijing and Washington differ is long and varied. It includes how to handle Iran’s nuclear program, the value of the Chinese currency, the Renminbi, how to deal with the Syrian government, trade disputes, investment opportunities for US firms in China and the roles both sides want to play in the South China Sea.

“The relationship is not in good shape and there is a lot of competition in various spheres,” says David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University.

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