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Congressional Research Service, "China’s Vice President Xi Jinping Visits the United States: What Is at Stake?,"

This CRS report was written by Susan V. Lawrence, specialist in Asian Affairs
February 6, 2012

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (pronounced Shee Jin-ping) is scheduled to visit the United States in mid-February, 2012, returning Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s August 2011 visit to China, which Xi hosted. The fact that Xi is the heir apparent to China’s current top leader, Hu Jintao, who is scheduled to retire in the coming year, makes this more than an ordinary vice-presidential visit. Xi’s trip is designed to help him build relationships with American policymakers and legislators and introduce himself to the American business community and the American people on the eve of his becoming China’s top leader. As important to the Chinese side, the trip could also play an important role in helping boost Xi’s stature back home, where he is so far known as much for having a famous father, early Communist Party revolutionary Xi Zhongxun, and a famous wife, military folk singer Peng Liyuan, as for his own achievements.

Xi is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on February 14, 2012. He will also spend time with his official host, Vice President Biden, and meet with Congressional leaders and members of the cabinet. Xi is scheduled to give a policy speech in Washington on February 15, 2012, and then travel to Iowa, a state that has seen its agricultural exports to China soar in recent years. In Muscatine, Iowa, Xi will reunite with people he first met in 1985, when he visited with a provincial animal-feed delegation. In Des Moines, he will meet with Iowa’s governor, Terry E. Branstad, whom he also met on the 1985 trip, when Branstad was serving his first term as governor. The last leg of Xi’s visit to the United States will take him to Los Angeles on February 16, 2012 for business-related events.  

If all goes as the Chinese leadership has planned, seven to nine months after Xi returns to China, he will be named to the top position in the Chinese Communist Party, General Secretary. He is expected to be named State President in March 2013. Barring the emergence of serious splits in the leadership, he is expected to hold both posts for two five-year terms. Xi is also on track to become the head of China’s military, perhaps as early as this year. Even with all of those posts, Xi’s power will be more circumscribed than that of an American president; he will serve as the first among equals on the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, and will need consensus from his colleagues for all major decisions. Efforts to consolidate authority could make Xi’s first years in power unpredictable. Nonetheless, China is presenting him as the man likely to serve as China’s top official until March 2023.

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