Inside the Ring: Summit shortcomings

Last weekend’s summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping fell short on three key outcomes, according to U.S. officials familiar with organizational efforts behind the meeting.

The White House and State Department originally hoped to produce a joint statement or communique, but the Chinese said no.

Additionally, White House officials wanted a joint press conference for both leaders to showcase progress toward what is being billed as a new model of relations between the two powerful countries.

Also, officials wanted Mr. Obama to host a farewell luncheon for Mr. Xi on Saturday at the luxurious Sunnylands estate near Rancho Mirage, Calif.

“Instead, Xi got on his plane and flew back to China,” said one official. “The president then went golfing with friends from high school.”

The reasons why the Chinese did not accept U.S. officials’ calls for the statement, press conference and final meal are not known. A dinner was held Saturday night, but there was no lunch, no statement and no joint press conference.

Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, disputed the officials’ account. “That is not what we wanted, nor what we requested, of the Chinese government,” she said, and referred to a post-summit briefing by White House National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon.

Mr. Donilon told reporters Saturday that the White House wanted a meeting with Mr. Xi before a September summit of Group of 20 nations because it would be “too long of time — the vacuum would be too great.” The meeting had “a specific goal to build a personal relationship between the president and President Xi,” he added.

However, Mr. Donilon compared the informal “shirtsleeves” summit to the October 2002 meeting in Texas between President George W. Bush and President Jiang Zemin. That summit included a joint press conference by the two leaders.

Mr. Obama discussed Chinese cyberattacks during the last session Saturday morning. The contentious issue “we believe needs to be at the center of the economic discussions that the United States and China are having,” Mr. Donilon said.

The Chinese also were said to be upset that first lady Michelle Obama snubbed Mr. Xi’s wife, Maj. Gen. Peng Liyuan, by not taking part in the summit. Mrs. Obama later wrote to Gen. Peng, offering regrets.

A second official said one reason the U.S. side agreed to Chinese demands for the limited summit was to avoid the appearance of a snub by China. They wanted to avoid having the world see Mr. Xi visit the Caribbean and Mexico but not the United States.

This official said Mr. Xi and the current Chinese communist leadership would have been satisfied to avoid the U.S. stop to show that Beijing is less interested in closer U.S. ties now that China’s power has grown significantly in recent years.

REPORT: COMMAND CLIMATE FOR LEAKS

Pentagon and intelligence officials are talking about an internal study on the so-called command climate conducive to leaks of classified information.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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