TOKYO – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Monday China's leaders did not need reassurance about the struggling U.S. economy, and called Vice President Xi Jinping ``strong'' and ``pragmatic,'' providing a window into the nature of the man expected to take over as president of the world's second largest economy.
Biden, who just wrapped up a multi-day visit to China that included stops in Beijing and Chengdu, said the United States would continue to press China to let its yuan currency rise, but he made clear he did not expect that to happen quickly in the coming year.
Biden's trip was seen by many analysts as designed to reassure the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt that its investments were safe. But Biden said his counterparts -- who spoke confidently about the U.S. economy in public during his trip -- did not ask for reassurance.
``I didn't sense it a bit that they needed reassurance about our economic stability or well-being,'' he said in an interview with a small group of reporters on his plane, Air Force Two, while flying to Tokyo.
``I didn't get any sense that there was any anxiety on the part of the Chinese government about whether or not we were a rising or declining economic power. I got the sense that, just like with us, they were hoping we'd begin to grow again seriously -- because it's in their interest. So it wasn't like, 'Is my investment OK?'''
Biden said China's leaders had not expressed concern about ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgrading of U.S. debt, and added that he personally was disappointed by the move.
The weakening U.S. economy is a political worry for Biden and President Barack Obama at home as much as it is for Beijing.
Asked about plans by Obama to lay out new proposals to boost jobs in the coming weeks, Biden said a payroll tax cut for businesses was ``on the table'' but declined to give details.
Biden's meetings with Xi were carefully watched for clues about China's next leader, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao in 2103.
``My impressions of Xi were that he's strong, that he's pragmatic,'' Biden said. ``I would guess his highest priority is not to have any surprises in the (U.S.-China) relationship.''
The U.S. vice president, who was a key player in reaching a deal with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and cut the deficit, said there was a shot that the two parties would reach a deal to trim the deficit more under a new congressional committee, though there was still a risk that a trigger for automatic cuts would be used.