In South Gate, Chinese, U.S. vice presidents urge understanding
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged their nations’ differences in a stop at a South Gate school Friday and encouraged students to learn more about China’s ways.
The visit to the International Studies Center, which promotes learning of Asian languages for middle and high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was part of a full day of local activities for the expected future Chinese leader.
The dignitaries were welcomed with flags from countries around the world and banners in English and Chinese on the fence outside the school.
Before visiting a classroom, Biden, Xi and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa watched several students perform a dragon dance. Two dozen students in yellow and pink silk costumes played a song on small red drums as eight students carrying the dragon danced.
The visit allowed Xi to show a softer, more relaxed side. Following Biden's lead, he walked among the students while he talked.
In a classroom where students are studying Mandarin, Xi told the pupils, "Besides learning about the language I hope you can learn about the culture. Because there are some cultural differences between the U.S. and China."
One girl asked, first in Chinese and then in English, "What are your impressions of your visit to America?"
"You speak wonderful Chinese," Xi said, before recounting his stop in Muscatine, Iowa, to see friends he met there in 1985. He said they were "warmhearted, friendly, honest and hard-working."
Another student asked how Xi manages his busy life. He said he and Biden "would always like to have more time to ourselves."
"To quote an American film," he said, "it's like 'Mission: Impossible.' "
Xi said he tries to find time to read and swim, and watches the NBA and American baseball and football. Xi has been invited to attend a Lakers game with Villaraigosa before his plane leaves Friday night.
Biden told the students the future of the 21st century will depend in large part on U.S.-China relations. "It's the single most important engagement we have," he said.
Xi has been “absolutely straightforward, he is open,” Biden added. "He is, like me, trying to understand the other man's position. You can't ask for much more than that."
Afterward, Biden and Xi’s motorcade headed to the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Outside, hundreds of Tibetan and other activists waved flags calling for Tibetan autonomy and improved human rights.
-- Kate Linthicum
Photo: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping shakes hands with California Gov. Jerry Brown after speaking to the U.S.-China Economy and Trade Cooperation Forum. At left is Commerce Secretary John Bryson. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times