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China's Xi Jinping visits Washington

Xi Jinping, China's current vice president, will be taking over the country later this year.

Adriene Hill: President Obama is meeting today with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping. Mr Xi is expected to become China's next president, and this visit may be a final test before he takes over.

So we turn to Barbara Hackman Franklin. She was U.S. Secretary of Commerce for George H.W. Bush and has met with Mr. Xi. Good morning.

Barbara Franklin: Good morning to you.

Hill: So what are your impressions of Xi Jinping? What kind of leader will he be?

Franklin: When you look at his background and what he's been through in this life, he was just a young man when his father, who had been a revolutionary hero, was purged and put under house arrest for 16 years. Xi Jinping was 9 years old at that time, so he went from being in the elite to being not-so-elite. But then later, his father was rehabilitated politically. In the interim, he himself Xi Jinping was sent to the countryside, literally living in caves and doing the menial kind of work that happened there. So the point is, he has seen ups and downs in his life, and I think that's going to make him a very interesting kind of leader.

Hill: And what opportunities does a power change in China present to the economy and businesses here in the U.S.?

Franklin: It's a question of building relationships and building trust and being able to get some of the things across that we are concerned about here. And I must say, in the meeting that I was in with Xi Jinping, of course as vice president, he seemed to understand some of our concerns, like intellectual property protection. So I think that depending on how the relationships are, it really can make a difference in terms of the sorts of progress that we all want to make.

Hill: If you were advising Barack Obama on his goal of doubling U.S. exports, what would you tell him about the Chinese market today?

Franklin: China is obviously a place where we can do better. Our exports have been growing quite handsomely over the last few years. And agriculture is one of the places where we are running a surplus with China, so it's a very important market. But the playing field, we really want the playing field to be level. And that's where the president ought to be heading, and I'm sure that the business leaders that Xi Jinping will meet here are going to make some of these very same points.

Hill: Barbara Hackman Franklin, thanks for your time.

Franklin: Thank you so much.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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