The last Chinese President, Hu Jintao, was unfailingly formal, but Washington is trying a different tack with his successor, Xi Jinping. He is due to meet US President Barack Obama tomorrow for a weekend “shirt-sleeves summit”, a smart-casual meeting at the 200-acre Sunnylands private estate in the Southern California desert location of Rancho Mirage.
It is the first time the men have met since Mr Xi, who is 59, took power in March. US Presidents customarily wait a year before any major talks with a new Chinese premier, but Mr Obama has made trans-Pacific relations a priority for his administration. Mr Xi is already said to have a warm relationship with US Vice President Joe Biden, who met him in China two years ago and accompanied him on a tour of the US in 2012.
The potential Obama-Xi friendship faces at least one social stumbling block, however. While Xi’s wife, popular Chinese singer Pen Liyuan, is travelling with him, US First Lady Michelle Obama will not be attending.