Clinton met President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Wednesday. (Photo/CNS)
China's vice president, Xi Jinping, suddenly canceled his Wednesday meeting in Beijing with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, late on Tuesday night, sparking rumors of a deliberate snub, reports Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
The explanation offered by US officials for the cancellation was that Xi had hurt his back. The 59-year-old Xi, who is widely expected to become China's next leader later this year, also canceled other engagements with the visiting prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, and other foreign dignitaries. Vice Premier Li Keqiang was put forward as a last-minute replacement for Xi, who reportedly wrote a personal letter to Clinton instead.
A Beijing source told Ming Pao that Xi canceled the meeting not because of health issues but because The Chinese government has been unhappy with Clinton's forceful attitude during earlier discussions with foreign minister Yang Jiechi over the country's sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea. Xi canceled his other engagements as well to make the situation less awkward for the US, the source said, adding that there was no real need to meet with Clinton considering she is unlikely to remain as secretary of state even if President Obama wins re-election.
Clinton did meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao but reportedly found little common ground in discussions on maritime disputes in the East and South China seas, where Beijing has been involved in worsening territorial squabbles with the Philippines and Japan since the start of the year.
"The US should respect China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect China's national core interests and the people's feelings," Wen said during the meeting.
During a visit to Indonesia on Tuesday, Clinton urged all parties involved in the South China Sea disputes to make "meaningful progress" on a process for ending conflict "without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force."
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Oriental Daily News reports that Communist Party veterans have called Xi "unreliable" after the vice president and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission held two military meetings in Beijing without informing Hu.
A source claims that Xi failed to disclose two military meetings that were held in July while the president was in Hong Kong for the 15th anniversary celebration of the territory's return to Chinese rule. One meeting was held at Xi's residence and the other in his office, the source said.
Party veterans are said to be furious with Xi for the non-disclosure and have even threatened to postpone the upcoming 18th National Congress — where Xi is expected to replace Hu as party leader — until former leader Jiang Zemin, said to be one of Xi's biggest supporters, urged them to reconsider.
Xi Jinping 習近平
Lee Hsien Loong 李顯龍
Li Keqiang 李克強
Yang Jiechi 楊潔篪
Hu Jintao 胡錦濤
Wen Jiabao 溫家寶
Jiang Zemin 江澤民