BEIJING — When Wang Huning, a policy adviser to the Chinese president, made a six-month trip to the United States in 1988, he returned with notes for a 400-page memoir.
“The Americans care for strength,” he wrote after watching a football game at the United States Naval Academy. “This reflects the American spirit — that is, to achieve a goal in a short time with power. The Americans adhere to this spirit in many fields, like the military, politics, economics and so on.”
As President Xi Jinping made his first state visit to the United States,including a day of pageantry and diplomacy at the White House on Friday, Mr. Wang was among a small group of advisers at his side.
A member of the Communist Party’s elite Politburo, Mr. Wang, 59, studied American society as a politics professor in Shanghai and an adviser to Mr. Xi’s two predecessors. In the process, he got to know American scholars and officials.
Yet, people who knew Mr. Wang back then say he has become unapproachable and ignores invitations for conversations. American officials find it difficult to talk to him casually on the sidelines of international forums.
They and other Western officials say that this icy remove is true not only of Mr. Wang, but also of other advisers with whom Mr. Xi travels, including Li Zhanshu, essentially Mr. Xi’s chief of staff, and Liu He, his top economic adviser.
The problem presents a huge challenge for the United States and other nations. By some standards, Mr. Xi’s administration is the most secretive in 66 years of Communist rule.
In past decades, foreign officials could speak with senior Chinese officials or aides and trust that those people were proxies for their leaders. The most famous example is Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier under Mao, with whom Henry A. Kissinger secretly negotiated the United States-China rapprochement.[Source]