China's Xi arrives in Washington for first U.S. state visit

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Xi Jinping Arrives in the US for Week-Long State Visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington on Thursday for a state visit and talks with President Barack Obama expected to be clouded by differences over alleged Chinese cyber spying, Beijing's economic policies and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Vice President Joe Biden greeted Xi and his wife as they landed at Andrews Air Force Base on the second leg of a weeklong trip that begin in Seattle. While there, the Chinese leader sought to reassure U.S. companies that he is working to create a more favorable Chinese investment climate.

Xi arrived soon after Pope Francis flew out of the U.S. capital following a visit that drew adoring crowds wherever he went.

See images of President Xi in the U.S.

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China's Xi arrives in Washington for first U.S. state visit
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan wave as they arrive in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, en route to Washington for a State Visit. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, shakes hands with Apple CEO Tim Cook, right, during a gathering of CEOs and other executives at Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
US President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping walk from the White House to a working dinner at Blair House, on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping (R) walk from the White House to a working dinner at Blair House, on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, Sept. 23, 2015: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a reception held by Chinese community in the United States in Seattle, the United States, Sept. 23, 2015. Xi's wife Peng Liyuan also attended the event on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen via Getty Images)
SEATTLE, Sept. 23, 2015: Chinese President Xi Jinping, front left, greets a student during his visit to the Lincoln High School in Tacoma of Washington State, the United States, Sept. 23, 2015. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang via Getty Images)
SEATTLE, Sept. 23, 2015: Chinese President Xi Jinping, second left, presents a sapling of metasequoia to mark the establishment of the Global Innovation Exchange, a partnership jointly established by the University of Washington and Tsinghua University, during his visit to the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond of Washington State, the United States, Sept. 23, 2015. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama greets Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, as he arrives the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, for a private dinner at the Blair House, across the street from the White House. Xi arrived in Washington late Thursday for a State Visit. Obama has invested more time building personal ties with the Chinese president than with most other world leaders. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Vice President Joe Biden gestures toward Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are traveling to Washington for a State Visit. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Harry Shum, left, Microsoft Executive Vice President of Technology and Research, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, in front of a display of devices running the Windows operating system that were made in China by ZTE Corporation during a tour of Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama toast with first lady Michelle Obama during a State Dinner, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
WASHINGTON D.C., Sept. 25, 2015-- Chinese President Xi Jinping, second right, and his wife Peng Liyuan, left, are welcomed by U.S. President Barack Obama, right, and his wife Michelle Obama at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, Sept. 25, 2015. Xi arrived in Washington, the second stop of his state visit to the United States, on Thursday after a busy two-and-a-half-day stay in Seattle. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei via Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, left, adjusts U.S. President Barack Obama's bow-tie prior to greeting Xi Jinping, China's president, and Peng Liyuan, China's first lady, both not pictured, on the North Portico of the White House during a state visit in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. The U.S. and China announced agreement obroad anti-hacking principles aimed at stopping the theft of corporate trade secrets though Obama pointedly said he has not ruled out invoking sanctions for violators. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The White House quickly switched Chinese flags for the Vatican banners flying in front of the presidential mansion and prepared to roll out the red carpet for Xi, but the leader of the world's second-biggest economy can expect only a fraction of the wall-to-wall U.S. news coverage showered upon the popular pontiff.

U.S. cable-television networks were busy showing the pope's arrival live in New York instead of broadcasting Xi's welcoming ceremony, where he stood shoulder to shoulder with Biden as a band played the two countries' national anthems.

Obama planned to host Xi later on Thursday for a private working dinner, where White House aides said they would begin grappling with the main issues that divide their countries.

Xi will be treated to full honors on Friday, including a 21-gun salute, a formal summit, a joint news conference and a black-tie state dinner.

No policy breakthroughs are likely during Xi's U.S. trip, but the two sides are expected to announce several more modest achievements. Those could include building on the countries' climate change commitments, progress toward a bilateral investment treatment and new rules to lower the risk of aerial confrontations in the Asia-Pacific region.

CYBER SECURITY CAUSING MAJOR FRICTION

High on the agenda is cyber security. Washington is considering sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals it accuses of stealing U.S. trade secrets.

Responding to U.S. allegations that China has been behind cyber attacks affecting American business and government databases, Xi insisted during his visit to Seattle that the Communist government in Beijing did not support such activities and pledged to work with the United States to fight cyber crime.

"We put more stock in their actions than their words," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Thursday.

While Obama's aides say no formal cyber security agreement is likely, China's top Internet regulator suggested in a closed-door session with U.S. executives in Seattle this week that a basic deal against cyber warfare was possible, according to one person present.

Obama is also expected to press Xi to follow through on economic reforms and refrain from discrimination against U.S. companies operating in China. Some analysts believe Obama has more leverage due to China's slowing economic growth, which has destabilized global markets and raised doubts about Xi's economic stewardship.

At the same time, the Obama administration is still at a loss about how to curb China's assertiveness in the South China Sea, where Beijing has continued to reclaim land for potential military use despite conflicting sovereignty claims by China and its neighbors.

Calls for Obama to take a harder line with China have echoed from Congress to the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. But his approach will be tempered because the world's two biggest economies are inextricably bound together.

For his part, Xi, with nationalistic sentiment rising at home, can ill afford the appearance of making concessions.

Xi's meetings with Obama could also bolster the Chinese leader's stature at home, building on a high-profile military parade earlier this month to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, while deflecting attention from China's economic problems.

As for whether the pope's visit had overshadowed Xi's, Earnest said: "I have not heard anybody raise that concern."

Xi's visit will draw protests outside the White House gates from human rights groups, Falun Gong supporters and "Free Tibet" demonstrators.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama will take Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan, to the National Zoo on Friday for a look at the giant pandas, possibly including a cub born last month.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington and Michael Martina in Seattle; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Frances Kerry andKen Wills)

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