Xi and LA mayor aim for stronger ties

Updated: 2013-05-29 01:26

By Zhao Yanrong and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

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President Xi Jinping called on Tuesday for grassroots-level efforts to boost ties between Beijing and Washington, ahead of his scheduled meeting with US President Barack Obama in California on June 7 and 8.

Xi made the remarks when meeting the mayor of Los Angeles, a city with the largest Chinese population in the US.

Xi and LA mayor aim for stronger ties

Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles

Following the meeting, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa described Xi as "a man of the people", in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

Villaraigosa's China trip comes toward the end of his term as mayor of Los Angeles.

He described Tuesday's meeting as a meeting between old friends, adding that they talked longer than scheduled.

It was the third meeting between the pair. The mayor had invited Xi to his city during a trip to China in 2011, and in February 2012 Xi visited the US as vice-president. Accompanied by Villaraigosa on that trip, Xi watched a basketball game and also chatted to Los Angeles students learning Chinese.

"Xi is just as gracious and humble as he used to be," the mayor said.

Xi told Villaraigosa on Tuesday he was deeply impressed with the warm welcome he received from the people of Los Angeles.

Xi said,"The growth of China-US relations is inseparable from exchanges and cooperation at local level, and ... with universal participation and the active support of the people of the two countries."

He expects Los Angeles to advance its cooperation with China by using its own advantages.

Next month, Xi will be just 100 km from Los Angeles for the summit with Obama at the private Sunnylands estate of late publishing tycoon Walter Annenberg in Rancho Mirage, California.

It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Xi was elected president.

Sunnylands is a traditional venue for meetings between heads of state, Villaraigosa said.

"It's ideal for two great leaders to meet and spend some time getting to know one another and develop trust and build a relationship.

"The relationship should be founded on a strong foundation, and spending two days at Sunnylands is a good way to do that," Villaraigosa said.

Mayor: Visiting China a priority

Villaraigosa completes his second term as mayor in July, and one of his suggestions to his successor is that visiting China should be a priority.

He said trade between Los Angeles and China stands at about $139 billion, and the city handles about 40 percent of all Chinese goods entering the US.

More than 460,000 Chinese tourists visited Los Angeles in 2012, a 318 percent increase from 2006 when Villaraigosa took office.

The number of direct flights from the city to major Chinese cities has increased from two to six, while all major Chinese airlines now fly to Los Angeles.

"The Chinese community played an important role in building the city of LA in history, and China is also key to our city's current development," he said.

Villaraigosa also encouraged young people in his city to learn Mandarin and visit China.

He said it was a great honor to be mayor of a great city, where he was born, and he will promote the city in China. "I hope to come back. I promised President Xi that I will come back as a private citizen," he said, adding that he will always be an envoy from "the City of Angels".