Image: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is presented with a souvenir Los Angeles Laker jersey
Handout  /  Reuters
Vice President of China Xi Jinping is presented with a souvenir Los Angeles Laker jersey with his name imprinted on it during a vist to the Staples Center in Los Angeles Friday. Shown (L-R) are John Cappo, AEG China President & CEO, soccer star David Beckham of the LA Galaxy, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson.
msnbc.com news services
updated 2/18/2012 5:35:15 AM ET 2012-02-18T10:35:15

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping began the last day of his U.S. visit by urging closer ties and arguing that Americans benefit from their trade relationship with China.

"A prosperous and stable China will not be a threat to any country," Xi said Friday. "It will only be a positive force for world peace and development."

Xi, who is expected to become president of the world's most populous nation next year, started his fourth day in the United States at a downtown Los Angeles trade conference hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. His American counterpart, Vice President Joe Biden, joined him later.

Xi wrapped up his visit at Staples Center, where he attended a Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns basketball game Friday night, where he was presented with a jersey with his name on it in the company of Lakers legend Magic Johnson and soccer star David Beckham.

Following the Lakers' victory, Xi and his party left for the airport.

'Personal friendship'
Xi said that he felt from his visit that "mainstream American opinion" supports stronger ties.

"I can now say that my visit has been fully successful," he said.

"We've established a personal friendship and a healthy working relationship," he said of himself and Biden.

Xi is almost sure to succeed Hu Jintao as Chinese president in just over a year, and the final day of his tour of the United States featured commercial deals and reassuring talk intended to blunt American ire about the trade gap between the countries.

"We will further increase imports from other countries in the light of our economic and social development and consumer demand. We will actively expand imports from the United States," Xi later told a midday meeting.

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Any view that the U.S. is the loser in its trade relationship with China "does not square with facts," Xi said through a translator.

Chinese imports have helped Americans improve their standard of living and created more than 3 million new jobs in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010, Xi said.

Xi also said that China's economic momentum would not falter as some economists warn.

"China's economy will maintain stable growth," he said. "There will be no so-called hard landing."

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Biden told reporters the talks with Xi had been very forthright, and was also intensely curious about the workings of the American political system.

"This is a guy who wants to feel it and taste it, and he's prepared to show another side of Chinese leadership," said Biden. "He is intensely interested in understanding why we think the way we do, what our positions are, and the need to actually broaden this kind of understanding."

Xi's candor appreciated
Biden said he appreciated Xi's candor. "He is very, very direct. When we disagree, there's a clear statement of disagreement," Biden said. "I was impressed by how much he wants to know about how our system works."

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa both lauded the U.S.-China relationship.

"We've got a great future together," said Brown, who announced plans to open a new trade and investment office in China.

China is a major trade partner with Los Angeles, which has greatly benefited from its Pacific Rim position and has courted Chinese businesses and their potential jobs.

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During his visit, Xi toured the Port of Los Angeles, America's busiest port complex. Nearly 60 percent of the imports moving through the port come from China.

Outside the hotel hosting the trade forum, picketers protested Chinese policies in Tibet and its treatment of Falun Gong followers.

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Two protesters were cited for standing in the roadway but no one was arrested, Los Angeles Police spokesman Cleon Joseph said.

After the trade forum, Xi and Biden visited a suburban school in South Gate that specializes in Asian studies to promote more American students studying in China.

Students make America look good
The vice presidents watched a traditional Chinese "dragon dance" performed by middle- and high-school students at the International Studies Learning Center, a public school that is part of the Asia Society's network of schools across the country.

"You are an impressive group of students," Biden said. "Thank you for making America look so good."

Biden told the students that the U.S.-China relationship is the single most important relationship the country has in the 21st century.

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He said he and President Barack Obama believe that the most significant factor in improving U.S.-China ties is increasing educational opportunity for American students in China.

Under the 100,000 Strong Initiative, the White House aims to have at least that many American students studying in China.

Xi, who spoke with a class of high school students learning Chinese, lauded their Mandarin skills, saying it was important to learn the culture as well as the language to avoid misunderstandings.

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Accompanied by Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Xi saw the Lakers beat the Suns 111-99.

The National Basketball Association has been enormously popular in China since the arrival of 7-foot-6 (2-28-meter) center Yao Ming, who spent eight seasons with the Houston Rockets before retiring in July.

The recent exploits of Jeremy Lin, an American-born point guard from Harvard who has had a phenomenal two-week run with the New York Knicks, has only added to the popularity and hype of the NBA in China.

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Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

The league had been staging preseason games in China over the previous few years, although international play was scrapped this season because of the lockout.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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