In his first state visit to America, China's president will start in Seattle

GlobalPost
Chinese President Xi Jinping outside the Great Hall of the People on Sept. 14, 2015 in Beijing, China.

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NEED TO KNOW:

Not a lot has changed in the relationship between China and the United States since President Richard Nixon made that historic diplomatic leap in 1972. At the time he said: “The government of the People's Republic of China and the government of the United States have had great differences. We will have differences in the future. But what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war.”

Well, that's pretty much how the relationship stands today as the latest Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, arrives this week for his first state visit to the United States. But while war is a long way off, the differences between the two countries have given way to tension. And there's a lot at stake over the next few days.

Xi will start his trip in Seattle, where he will meet with 15 of the top technology executives in the United States. They will likely talk about opportunities for those companies in China, which is still closed to most of them (except, most significantly, Apple, which does huge business there). More importantly, the president will probably take the opportunity to enlist the tech execs' support in countering a threat from the Obama administration to impose sanctions on China. Those sanctions would follow US accusations that China, by hacking into the confidential systems of US firms, steals some $300 billion a year in intellectual property.

In Washington, Xi and Obama will try — few think they will be very successful — to hammer out the details of what could be the world's first treaty on cyber-warfare. While the deal would seek to safeguard critical infrastructure during peacetime, it probably wouldn't address the theft of intellectual property.

Xi, considered one of the most powerful leaders in China's recent history, is unlikely to be in a very diplomatic or generous mood. He has consolidated tremendous power and felled most of his political enemies in an incredible anti-corruption drive. He has also led China through some of its most significant economic reforms. But China's economy is slowing down, and everyone is getting a little concerned that maybe Xi isn't able to weather the storm. As a result of these domestic problems, analysts expect the Chinese president will try to project his strength while abroad. And that does not bode well for treaty-making.

WANT TO KNOW:

Europe still hasn't gotten its act together to create a plan to help the tens of thousands of refugees, most of them Syrian, who are now being bounced from one country to another as they try to get to Germany. The foreign ministers of eastern Europe are meeting today, and many of them have already said they would oppose any “quotas,” which would require countries to take in certain numbers of refugees. This is all a precursor to a larger meeting of European Union leaders on Wednesday in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Croatia and Hungary are basically playing hot potato with human beings. Thousands of refugees forced to find new routes to western Europe after Hungary closed its border last week ended up in Croatia, where they hoped to pass up through Slovenia and onto Austria and Germany. Croatia also tried briefly to close its borders last week, but is now trying something else: facilitating the journey out of Croatia. The country is piling refugees onto buses and sending them on — often back toward Hungary, which is really annoying Hungary's prime minister.

It might be comical were these people not desperately tired, often hungry, and leaving behind the homes, lives and livelihoods built over generations back in war-ravaged Syria.

Responding to the growing problem, the United States said it will now take in 100,000 worldwide refugees every year. This is up from its usual 70,000, a significant increase. These days most of the refugees are coming from Syria. And while most have landed among Syria's neighbors — like Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan — many others are attempting to move farther afield.

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have even ended up in Mauritania, a dusty outpost on the western edge of the Sahara. It's one of the few places they can go where they don't have to deal with visas, asylum applications, border closures, or much else. There is little work, however, and the cost of living is unusually high for a poor country. GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Erin Conway-Smith visited the sleepy capital city where Syrian refugees have relocated — but this isn't where they plan to stay. You can read her story here.

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

A few years ago, a British television show called “Black Mirror” included a scene in which Prime Minister David Cameron has sex with a pig. In the context of the scene, the act is noble: It is the demand of kidnappers. The whole episode was more or less a morality tale about how a single act can consume the public's imagination.

Well, it seems the episode was prescient. And, yes, in every way you can imagine. A new biography about the prime minister — written, we should say, by a former colleague and donor who appears to be angry that Cameron did not confer upon him a significant enough role in his government — claims that the prime minister inserted a “private part” into the mouth of a dead pig.

The veracity of the claim is suspect, but the tale is believable enough — it allegedly happened as part of some initiation to an elite university social club — that last night while Americans were watching the Emmys, the British were entirely consumed by what is now being called PigGate.

What a world.