Biden arrives on goodwill mission

Biden arrives on goodwill mission

BEIJING - United States Vice-President Joe Biden arrived in Beijing late on Wednesday, along with his Chinese-learning granddaughter in a bid to enhance mutual understanding between people in the two countries.

Stepping off his aircraft at Beijing Capital International Airport, the 68-year-old vice-president was greeted by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Instead of going to his hotel as scheduled, Biden and his delegation headed to the National Olympic Sports Center for a basketball game between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Shanxi Brave Dragons.

During the first China trip in his current position, Biden is scheduled to hold formal meetings with Vice-President Xi Jinping on Thursday and attend a meeting of China-US business leaders on Friday.

He will also meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao before being accompanied by Xi to Chengdu on Saturday, the capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, where the two will visit sites jolted by the deadly May 12, 2008, earthquake. Biden is also expected to deliver a speech at Sichuan University.

Ahead of his arrival in Beijing, Biden was trying to strike a positive tone for his visit, saying Chinese firms are encouraged to invest in the United States.

"We welcome and encourage Chinese companies investing abroad to look first at the US," Biden said in an interview with the People's Daily. "Foreign investors benefit from our open, transparent and non-discriminatory investment environment."

Biden said he and President Barack Obama are working on export restriction reforms to increase US competitiveness and stimulate US exports, Biden said in the interview published on Wednesday.

"We are determined to put US-China relations on a steady and sustainable track for the coming decades," Biden said.

Biden brought his Chinese-learning granddaughter with him for the visit, stressing in the interview the importance of enhancing mutual understanding between the people in the two countries.

Biden didn't touch on specific issues that are described as sensitive, including the proposed arms sale to Taiwan or the US debt crisis. But he said that the two countries have "made major progress" in establishing mechanisms to manage and settle disputes.

As an example, he pointed to a May economic and security dialogue that brought together military officials from both sides, as military ties remain the most vulnerable part in the bilateral relationship.

The Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday that it expected Biden to "assure Chinese leaders of Washington's capacity, will and commitment to tackle its fiscal and economic challenges".

It said in a commentary that the Aug 2 debt deal was an insufficient way to resolve what it called a "runaway debt problem" in the world's largest economy, saying it had left a "ticking time bomb".

Chinese officials have repeatedly urged the US to ease restrictions on exports to China of high-technology products. They say the restrictions contribute to China's trade surplus with the US by reducing its imports. The US has said such exports raise national-security concerns.

Agence France-Presse described Biden's five-day China tour as "an unusually long trip", underlining the importance that the second-highest US official attaches to the visit.