Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a star-studded lunch at the State Department
Tuesday in honor of Chinese Vice President Xi
Jinping, with a Valentine's Day theme to boot.
The tables were adorned with red rose bouquets and
the menu featured Chinese-American fusion creations by chef Ming Tsai, including a roasted sweet
potato soup with crispy duck confit roulade, soy marinated Alaskan butterfish,
and "eight treasured rice packet" with dried fruit and pork sausage. Dessert
was a flourless bittersweet chocolate cake topped with cardamom ice cream.
In addition to Clinton and Biden, the roster of
former and current officials and celebrities in attendance included Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brezinksi, Thomas
Friedman, Chris Hill, Chas Freeman, Alan Greenspan, and Sens. John
Kerry (D-MA), Dianne Fienstein
(D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Bob Corker (R-TN). State Department
officials at the event included Wendy
Sherman, Bob Hormats, Kurt Campbell, and many others.
Your humble Cable
guy's table included Amy Chua, the
author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,
former National Security Advisor Gen. Brent
Scowcroft, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, and State Department counselor Harold Koh.
Clinton opened up the event by alluding to the
"Because we so highly value our relationship and
you're here on what we call Valentine's Day, which is a time that is for love
but also friendship, and we are so delighted that we could invite many American
friends who know China, work in China, have relations in China, here to this
lunch honoring you," she said.
Biden joked about Xi's visit Wednesday to Iowa,
where the future Chinese leader had spent some time living with a homestay
family in the 1980's.
"Your visit to Iowa will ensure you more delegates than
I received there when I ran for president," Biden joked. "And Lindsey Graham is
happy that you didn't show up there in January, or you might have won the GOP
primary as well."
Biden then got serious and talked about how the
U.S.-China relationship "is literally
going to help shape the 21st century."
He mentioned China's deteriorating record on human
rights and said, "We see our advocacy of human rights as a fundamental part of
our foreign policy and we see human rights as a key to the prosperity of all
"We have been clear about our concern over the areas
in our perspective where conditions in China have deteriorated and the plight
of several individuals," Biden said, though he did not mention any dissidents
by name. "We appreciate your response."
In his own speech, Xi said touted China's human
rights record and promised that his country would continue to focus on the
personal aspirations of its people. He did not mention any specific human
rights achievements, however.
"China has made tremendous and well recognized
achievements in human rights over 30 years since opening up," said Xi. ""The
Chinese government will always put people's interest first and take seriously
people's aspirations and demands."
He alluded to a "new and important consensus"
achieved during his trip, without elaborating.
The mood in the room was friendly and many attendees
who had interacted with Xi personally said that he was more personable and
somewhat less guarded than his boss Hu
Jintao. They said that Xi was being very careful to stay on script and not
make any mistakes, but that they were cautiously optimistic the visit would
establish some rapport between Xi and his high-level U.S. interlocutors.
The lunch began more than an hour late because Xi's
previous meeting with President Barack
Obama in the Oval Office, which had been scheduled for 45 minutes, lasted
almost an hour and a half. Biden has met Xi before and traveled to China late
last year as the latter's guest, but today was the first meeting between Obama
In Obama's remarks after the meeting, he nodded to
the issue of human rights when he said, "[W]e
will continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the
aspirations and rights of all people."
Human Rights Watch Executive
Director Ken Roth, who
met with Biden before the visit, was not impressed with the back and forth
on the issue and wrote that the language the administration used was weaker
than he would have liked.
"The Obama team didn't even
publicly mention Chinese dissidents by name, let alone meet with them before
the Xi Jinping visit. Bad signal," Roth tweeted.
"The Obama team already wasn't doing much for human rights in
Now it's not even saying much."
Biden and Xi also met this morning,
and Xi met with some senior former officials last night for dinner at his hotel
in Woodley Park. Tonight, Xi eats at Biden's residence before he takes off for
Iowa and then Los Angeles, where we're told he will take in a Lakers game.
Xi made the final toast at Tuesday's lunch.
"I now propose a toast to the health of Vice
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to the
remarkable development of U.S.-.China relations in the last 40 years and to
even better relations in the next 40 years," he said.