Date
14 December 2017
President Barack Obama is ushered in by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing in November. Obama says Xi has won respect in the two years since he took power and has raised concerns among his neighbors at the same time. Photo: Reuters
President Barack Obama is ushered in by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing in November. Obama says Xi has won respect in the two years since he took power and has raised concerns among his neighbors at the same time. Photo: Reuters

Obama: Xi’s quick grip on power raises concerns

President Barack Obama said Chinese President Xi Jinping is raising human rights concerns and worrying his neighbors after consolidating power more quickly than any Chinese leader in decades.

However Xi has won respect in the two years since he took power, Obama told a group of American chief executives.

Xi became chairman of the ruling Communist Party in November 2012 and state president in March 2013.

“He has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since Deng Xiaoping,” Obama said.

“And everybody’s been impressed by his … clout inside of China after only a year and a half or two years.”

But Obama said there were negative sides to Xi’s rise, Reuters reported.

“There are dangers in that. On issues of human rights, on issues of clamping down on dissent. He taps into a nationalism that worries his neighbors,” Obama said, noting maritime disputes in the region.

“On the other hand, I think they have a very strong interest in maintaining good relations with the United States. And my visit was a demonstration of their interest in managing this relationship effectively.”

Obama said the US wants to show China that it wants a constructive “win-win” relationship while also insisting on fixing problems such as commercial cyber theft.

“It is indisputable that they engage in it, and it is a problem. And we push them hard on it.”

Obama encouraged the chief executives to speak out when they were being “strong-armed” on those issues despite risks that their businesses could be penalized in China for doing so.

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