China's likely new leader in U.S. at testy time

The man expected to become China's next president, just one year from now, meets President Obama Tuesday at the White House.

Vice President Biden greeted Xi Jinping when he arrived in Washington Monday.

But not everyone is putting out the welcome mat.

China's next leader visiting White House

Xi's visit is meant to showcase the economic upside of the U.S.-China relationship, but it comes at a time of severe tension between the two nations, over trade and human rights.

Xi is one of the most important figures in China, in line to become the head of China's Communist Party this year and China's president in 2013. And he could rule there for the next 10 years.

His trip to the U.S. is a trade mission, but is also meant to bolster China's image, because in Washington, his country is often accused of not playing by the rules.

"It's not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're heavily subsidized," Mr. Obama said during his State of the Union address last month.

That's just the beginning. The administration has also accused China of currency manipulation, protectionism, and intellectual property theft, all of which are seen as giving the Chinese an unfair advantage, and potentially taking away American jobs.

"We try to set up rules that are universal, that everybody can follow, and then we play by those rules," Mr. Obama said in November. "And then, we compete fiercely. But we don't try to game the system.

Republicans running for president use China as a foil, too -- at times seeming to one-up each other on who can be toughest on China.

Mitt Romney says he "will designate China as a currency manipulator." Newt Gingrich says, "I think we're going to have to find ways to dramatically raise the pain level for the Chinese cheating."

But the head of a group working to grow U.S.-China business ties says the health of the U.S. economy is more closely linked to China's success than we might think. "It's probably a $200 billion market for U.S. companies right now," says John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council. "That's why China is important to us. It's enormously important to our economy, directly or indirectly."

Xi is also going to Iowa and California. He's likely to get a far warmer welcome in Iowa, because the emphasis of his visit will be on trade and investment in the U.S. -- and people need jobs.

That's where the disconnect between American politics and reality could be most stark.

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent

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