US Vice President Joe Biden gives a thumbs up during a chat with a patron at a restaurant during lunch in Beijing Thursday. Biden’s meal cost 79 yuan ($12.36) for five people. Photo: AFP
US Vice President Joe Biden impressed the Chinese public Thursday by dining in a small restaurant in Beijing, while he and Chinese leaders vowed to deepen the two countries' economic partnership and expand high-level exchanges.
Biden started his second day in Beijing by meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the Great Hall of the People.
"In the face of a complicated and fast-changing world, cooperation is the only correct choice of the two countries," Xi said. "China and the US are transforming their economic development modes and restructuring their economies, which has provided the two nations with good opportunities for cooperation."
"There is no more important relationship that we need to establish on the part of the US than the close relationship with China," Biden replied, adding that cooperation between the two sides has a significant impact on world economic stability.
Xi stressed the importance of maintaining high-level exchanges and pursuing common interests, while reiterating that Taiwan and Tibet-related issues are China's core interests and should be handled prudently and properly.
Biden's China tour, arranged during President Hu Jintao's visit to the US earlier this year, is the first by a senior US official since the outbreak of the US debt crisis.
Shi Yinhong, director of the US Study Center at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the most important message Biden wants to deliver to Beijing, Washington's biggest creditor, is an assurance over the US economy.
"Beijing seeks Washington's commitment for the safety of its investment in US Treasuries, although Biden's promise may just be lip service," Shi said.
China has put about two-thirds of its foreign reserves, amounting to $1.17 trillion in June, into US Treasuries and other assets.
Unnamed US officials who attended the talks told Reuters that Xi expressed "great confidence" in the fundamentals of the US economy and "there was no expression of any concerns" from the two leaders.
Regarding recent reports of possible US sales of F-16C/D jet fighters to Taiwan, Shi said, "Beijing should continue to pressure the US ahead of its final decision over the arms sales, which are scheduled for October."
"Even if it fails to stop the deal, it may cut the scale of delivery and hold back US sales of other advanced weapons to Taiwan," Shi added.
After meeting with Xi, Biden decided to relax by enjoying some Beijing snack food with his granddaughter and new US ambassador to China, Gary Locke, at a family-owned restaurant.
Biden and his entourage ordered local noodles served with special soybean paste, steamed buns and some other Chinese appetizers, according to the official microblog of the US embassy in Beijing, which broadcast the vice president's trip online.
Biden stopped short of ordering the restaurant's specialty, chao gan, a dish of pork liver and intestines served in a broth that is particularly popular in Beijing.
"The meetings were great. But it's harder to order," Biden joked to reporters when asked about his talks, AFP reported.
The restaurant was full of Beijingers when Biden arrived, and the US number two apologized for the commotion.
"You came in for a quiet lunch and I show up," AFP quoted him as saying.
The move impressed many locals, with Internet users contrasting Biden's chummy manner with some Chinese officials who prefer to be serious when facing the public.
Just a week ago, pictures of US ambassador Locke carrying his own bags at Beijing airport were widely circulated online, with Chinese microbloggers praising the new envoy's humble stance.
"A meal at a local restaurant shows Biden's personality and his desire and efforts to be close to the Chinese public," Tao Wenzhao, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"Politicians usually visit schools and institutes, but Biden chose to go where ordinary people go. Judging from online comments, some Web users really like him.
"Deliberately or not, Biden's move won over the Chinese public to some extent," Tao said.
Later Thursday, Biden met with Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress.
They called on the two sides to strengthen dialogue and to properly handle disputes and sensitive issues.
On Friday, Biden will meet with Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao, before heading to Chengdu, the capital of southwestern Sichuan Province, accompanied by Xi.
Liu Linlin and agencies contributed to this story