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Vice President Biden Bonds with Chinese Counterpart

ABC News(BEIJING) -- Vice President Joe Biden was formally welcomed to China Thursday morning by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in an elaborate ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.

Biden is on a week-long mission to East Asia that includes four days in China, where the administration says he will invest in the future of Sino-American relations by trying to get to know Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping better.  Xi is expected to become China’s next leader.

In opening remarks, both Xi and Biden recognized the increasing interdependence between the two countries, as well as their common challenges -- the economy in particular.  They both stressed that cooperation was imperative; that's pretty much a given considering how much U.S. debt China owns, and how many products from China are imported into the States.

The two men will be spending a lot of time together during Biden’s China visit, which was described as a unique opportunity to “regularize and personalize” a relationship with the future Chinese leader.

In a background briefing, senior administration officials described Thursday's meetings as “candid”  but readng through the diplomatic speak could mean "heated" or "argumentative."

They described the two men as having a genuine back and forth, talking about a huge range of issues, from security issues like North Korea, Iran and Pakistan to the economy.  The American official found it "frankly unusual for leaders to engage so deeply on such a broad spectrum."  They engaged so deeply that the smaller, closed press meeting between Biden and Xi ran 45 minutes into "overtime."

The senior administration officials said that in stark contrast to what is being said in the Chinese media about the U.S.’s economic prospects, Xi and his delegation are actually bullish on the U.S. economy, especially after the debt deal that the officials said that Biden was instrumental in ushering through.

As for Xi himself, the officials found him to be a “cool,” “deliberate,” ”confident,” and “extremely engaged” leader, who was “clearly relishing the opportunity to sit down with a global peer.”

On Friday, Biden will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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