Obama and Xi: Meeting of minds

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama

What will Barack Obama and China's new President Xi Jinping find to talk about at a special summit in California on Friday?

During their two days together at an estate in Rancho Mirage, discussions are expected to focus on hacking, tension between their militaries and North Korea.

But both men also seem keen to establish a personal rapport. So they may end up seeking common ground, focussing on shared interests - like basketball. Here are some other suggestions for breaking the ice.

Two presidents

Compare and contrast Chinese President Xi Jinping US President Barack Obama


59 (Born 15 June 1953)

51 (Born 4 August 1961)

At a glance

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the National People's Congress in Beijing (Mar 2013)

Became president at a meeting of the National People's Congress in March 2013

President Obama's inauguration in Washington DC (Jan 2013)

Sworn in for his first term as president in January 2009; re-elected in November 2012

Both went to prestigious universities

Studied chemical engineering at Beijing's elite Tsinghua University. Returned a few years later to study for a PhD in Marxist ideology

Gained a bachelor's degree at Columbia University, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law

Both are sporty

Xi Jinping kicks a football in Dublin (Feb 2012)

Watches NBA basketball games on the television and is also a soccer fan. Enjoys swimming and mountain climbing

President Barack Obama playing basketball  (April 2013)

Plays basketball. At the gym, "he runs hard on the treadmill", watching ESPN's SportsCenter

Both love reading...

Read books "as thick as bricks" when he was banished to the countryside during China's tumultuous Cultural Revolution. Even now, reading is his favourite hobby. "Reading has become a way of life for me," he admits

Known bookworm and one-time book reviewer for the Chicago Tribune. News that he is reading a particular book is known to boost sales

… and writing

Chinese newspapers

Wrote hundreds of articles for the Zhejiang Daily under the pen name, Zhexin. His column was said to have discussed the "everyday problems of interest to the common people", according to China's state-run media.

Man reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope

Has penned two international bestsellers and won two Grammy awards for the audio versions of his books

Visiting each other's country

Briefly visited Iowa in 1985 to study agricultural techniques, from corn production to raising pigs but did not return again, in an official capacity, until 2012

First visited China in November 2009 in the first year of his presidency

Their accomplished wives…

Peng Liyuan speaks at an HIV awareness event in Beijing (Nov 2009)

Peng Liyuan is a famous folk singer. She also serves as a major general with the People's Liberation Army and a World Health Organisation Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/Aids and tuberculosis

Michelle Obama speaks at Maryland University (May 2013)

Michelle Obama has a Harvard law degree and worked for years as a hospital administrator

…and well-educated children

Harvard University, US (file image)

Daughter believed to have been enrolled at Harvard under a pseudonym

Sasha and Malia Obama at inauguration, Washington (Jan 2013)

Daughters attend the swanky Sidwell Friends School in Washington

Have enterprising fathers

Father, a Communist elder, pushed for economic restructuring

Father, who once herded goats in Kenya, went to Harvard

In their own words

Has spoken of "foreigners with full bellies and nothing to do but criticise our affairs"

Says: "I absolutely believe China's peaceful rise is good for the world and it's good for America. We just want to make sure that that rise occurs in a way that reinforces international norms and international rules, and enhances security"

At the movies

Saving Private Ryan (Dreamworks)

Enjoys US-made movies such as Saving Private Ryan, explaining: "Americans have a clear outlook on values and clearly demarcate between good and evil. In American movies good usually prevails"

Marlon Brando as the Godfather

Loves the opening scene in The Godfather, explaining: "The caretaker comes in and, you know, Marlon Brando is sitting there and he's saying, 'You disrespected me, you know, and now you want a favour.'"

Both have a distinctive personal style

Tough - and "very, very direct", says US Vice President Joe Biden

Academic, professorial, Spock-like in private settings

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