Chinese President Xi visits Microsoft, calls for “open” and “secure” cyberspace

On state visit to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping visits headquarters of tech giant Microsoft, meets with tech sector leaders and calls for building of “open” and “secure” cyberspace

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 23, 2015)(UNRESTRICTED POOL) – Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the headquarters of Microsoft on Wednesday (September 23) where he met with the company’s founder Bill Gates as well as tech leaders including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple Inc’s Tim Cook and other top tech executives.

At the meeting Xi told assembled industry leaders that China shared a vision of a secure and open cyberspace, seeking to allay concerns over accusations of hacking by China on US computers.

Cyber security has been a divisive issue between Washington and Beijing, with the United States accusing Chinese hackers of damaging attacks, a charge China denies.

The first leg of a trip to the United States, Xi’s Seattle stop offers a chance to highlight China’s cooperation with U.S. companies firms before he heads to Washington, where he will have to contend with the full spectrum of irritants in relations, from tension in the South China Sea to human rights.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella escorted the Chinese Premier around the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Seattle. He was shown several cutting edge Microsoft products and the latest line of consumer products.

Also on Wednesday Xi toured Boeings factory in Everett, Washington.

Xi and President Barack Obama are expected to have intense talks about cyber espionage during the Chinese leader’s time at the White House on Thursday and Friday, but economic issues are also expected to be high on the agenda.

Speaking to tech industry leaders on Wednesday, Xi emphasized China’s shared vision of an open, secure internet.

“Thus a secure, stable and prosperous cyberspace is of great significance for peace and development of not only one country, but for the whole world. And therefore to study how to govern the internet and make good use of the internet has become an issue of interest to all countries, and studied by all countries. No-oen can stay isolated from this course,” he said.

China has been criticized by rights advocates for censoring internet providers and sanctioning online dissidents. In Seattle the Chinese President said that countries needed to act according to their “national realities”.

“China advocates the building of a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and we believe that countries should formulate internet related public policies in line with their respective national realities. We attach importance to the important role of the internet to promoting economic growth and we are implementing an internet plus policy in china with the aim of encouraging more industries to make use of the internet to achieve better development,” he said.

Prior to Xi’s visit US officials had said that Washington was considering sanctions against both Russian and Chinese individuals and companies for cyber attacks against US commercial targets.

The Chinese leader’s visit to Seattle, which he called “America’s gateway to Asia” in prepared remarks upon his arrival, comes at a delicate time in U.S.-China relations.

U.S. government and business leaders aim to strike a balance between forging agreements and improving relations with the world’s second-largest economy, while sending strong messages about allegations of Chinese cyber spying and intellectual property violations as well as Internet censorship and China’s disputed territorial claims to islands in the South China Sea.

For the Chinese side, Xi’s meetings with Obama and U.S. business leaders offer the chance to bolster the president’s stature at home, building on a high-profile military parade earlier this month to mark the end of World War Two, while deflecting attention from the country’s recent stock market rout, slowing economy and a chemical explosion at a Tianjin warehouse that killed over 160 people.