Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama ... there was no sign of any significant breakthrough on problems that have dogged dealings between America and China for years. Photo: Martin Simon
Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have completed two days of get-to-know-you talks covering disputes like cyber hacking and North Korea that may set the stage for US-Chinese relations for years to come.
The pair spent about eight hours together over Friday and Saturday at a sprawling retreat in the sun-baked desert near Palm Springs, California, an informal summit aimed at injecting some warmth into often chilly relations and providing the chance to talk about their differences openly.
While there were plenty of smiles for the cameras, there was no sign of any significant breakthrough on problems that have dogged dealings between America and China for years, particularly accusations of Chinese thievery of US industrial and military secrets through cyber intrusions.
In one accomplishment, presidents Obama and Xi agreed their governments would work together to find ways to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons as a way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
As their second day of meetings began, Messrs Obama and Xi appeared outside in the morning heat at the Sunnylands retreat, a secluded 81-hectare complex where eight US presidents have visited.
Presidents Obama and Xi walked slowly side by side, smiling and chatting amiably in English across a manicured green lawn between two ponds. Trailed by translators and aides, the two leaders, dressed casually in shirt sleeves, walked across a small arched bridge.
"Terrific," said Mr Obama when asked by a reporter how meetings were going.
The two leaders wrestled with how to handle China's rise on the world stage, more than 40 years after President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit to Communist China in 1972 ended decades of estrangement between Washington and Beijing.
Although Mr Obama said he wanted to make room for the "peaceful rise" of China, the two countries do not see eye to eye on trade, bellicose behavior by nuclear-armed North Korea, human rights and each country's military intentions.
Mr Obama cited a "whole range of challenges on which we have to co-operate, from ... North Korea's nuclear and missile programs to proliferation, to issues like climate change."
China experts say if Messrs Obama and Xi can develop personal rapport - something lacking between US presidents and Mr Xi's notoriously wooden predecessor, Hu Jintao - and make at least some progress on substantive issues, the summit could gain historic significance.
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