WASHINGTON – The US manufacturing lobby on Monday said President Barack Obama should get tough with President Xi Jinping on alleged Chinese cyber spying and what it sees as predatory economic policies.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) also pressed Obama to raise claims China manipulates its currency, perceived Chinese trade abuses and intellectual property theft with Xi when they meet Friday. The two men will hold an informal two-day summit at the secluded Annenberg Retreat in California for the first time since Xi assumed full power and Obama
embarked on a second term.
Both sides are billing it as a chance to compare geostrategic visions and an opportunity for the leaders who will steer the world’s most important great power relationship for the foreseeable future to forge a personal connection.
But allegations that a sweeping cyber spying operation based in China and involving the military has stolen US weapons designs and commercial secrets are placing Obama under intense political pressure at home.
“We are hopeful that this focused two-day visit will yield new and meaningful results,” said Scott Paul, AAM president, in a letter to Obama. “Americans are losing patience with China’s refusal to play by the rules.”
Paul also expressed disquiet that the US defense industry was overly reliant on Chinese suppliers for vital components of equipment as diverse as rocket fuel and night vision goggles. And he called on the White House to take a more broad-based approach to combating perceived Chinese trade abuses, though he praised its targeted enforcement actions on tires, solar panels and in other areas.
Paul also told reporters that, absent specific punishments and a tougher US approach, China’s behavior on a number of issues important to Washington was unlikely to change.
“Unless you hit China in the wallet it has no incentive to improve the environment,” he told reporters, referring specifically to intellectual property rights.
The White House has signaled that the issue of cyber espionage will be high on the agenda when Obama and Xi meet. Officials say the two sides have agreed to hold regular, high-level meetings aimed at setting standards for behavior on cyber security and commercial spying.
The talks will focus not just on hacking but also on developing ground rules for operating in cyberspace. Other items on the agenda in California include climate change, North Korea’s nuclear challenge and the US pivot to Asia, which has irked Beijing as it seeks to expand its own influence the region.
Washington appears to hope that Obama will be able to forge a warmer connection with Xi than the stilted relationship he had with former president Hu Jintao, which rarely deviated from scripted talking points.