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From Sunnylands to Storm Clouds: Xi, Obama Face Tense Summit

  • `Tremendous amount at stake' for Chinese president's visit
  • Opportunity for both sides to smooth over recent disputes
Xi Jinping and Barack Obama take a walk at the Annenberg Retreat in California in 2013. Photographer: Lan Hongguang/Xinhua via Getty Images

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama take a walk at the Annenberg Retreat in California in 2013. Photographer: Lan Hongguang/Xinhua via Getty Images

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Two years ago, Xi Jinping and Barack Obama took a stroll in their shirtsleeves in the California sunshine. The getting-to-know-you chat on the Sunnylands estate went so well Obama declared it “terrific.”

This week, when the presidents of the world’s two biggest economies meet in Washington, things will be different. On the surface, the trip will go smoothly, if not exactly Sunnylands 2.0. Months of shuttling diplomats will ensure Xi and Obama’s public comments are sufficiently nuanced and that the Chinese president gets polite pomp on his first state visit to the U.S., including a banquet and 21-gun salute.