RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — President Barack Obama and his new Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, wrapped up a two-day summit at this California desert resort Saturday after nearly eight hours of talks and a candle-lit dinner aimed at shaping what both leaders called a "new model" of relations for the future.
The meetings grew contentious Saturday morning when Obama pushed Xi to do more to curb Chinese cyberattacks on U.S. businesses and infrastructure. Obama argued the hacking is "inconsistent with the kind of relationship we want to have with China," according to Tom Donilon, the president's national security adviser.
Donilon said Obama detailed cases of massive digital thefts at U.S. companies by entities in China, and he said if they are not addressed, it would become a "very difficult problem in the economic relationship" between the two countries.
Cybertheft, Donilon told reporters, "really now is at the center of the relationship. It is not an adjunct issue."
The Obama administration has accused China of stealing billions of dollars of technical, financial and other data and intellectual property through cyberattacks. China denies the charge, insisting it is the victim, not the instigator, of digital looting.
On other issues, the two sides agreed to work together for the first time to "phase down the production and consumption" of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are potent greenhouse gases linked to climate change. The gases are in refrigerators, air conditioners and industrial applications.
Donilon said the two leaders also found "quite a bit of alignment" on North Korea, and a possible path for increased cooperation given the threat to regional and U.S. security. Both agreed that North Korea should give up its nuclear weapons.
The presidents discussed North Korea over their Friday night dinner of lobster tamales, porterhouse steak and cherry pie by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
The summit at the Sunnylands estate was notable for its dress code: No one wore neckties, a testament to the ovenlike heat and the carefully scripted informality of the presidents' first meeting since Xi assumed office in March.
Yang Jiechi, China's state counselor and former foreign minister, told reporters that the importance of the summit was to lay the groundwork for a new relationship, not in any specific accords.
He said cybersecurity "should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and friction, rather it should be a new bright spot in our cooperation."
He said the leaders "blazed a new trail" away from disputes in the past months on regional security and computer hacking. He called the session a "strategic, constructive and historic meeting."
His comments reflect Beijing's desire to demonstrate Xi's skills as a firm steward of China's interests. Xi's aides viewed the summit as a way to show China and the United States as equals, a theme the Chinese leader has emphasized in public comments.
Obama gave only a one-word summary of the summit Saturday, his only public comment of the day. "Terrific," he replied when a reporter asked how the meetings had gone, as he and Xi took a stroll.
But in more detailed comments Friday night, both leaders sought to downplay the possibility of tension, highlighting instead shared interests and opportunities for cooperation. They pledged to expand official and informal exchanges on military affairs, economics and trade, cybersecurity, the environment and other issues.
"China and the United States must find a new path, one that is different from the inevitable confrontation and conflict between the major countries of the past," Xi said. If the two nations work together, he added, "we can be an anchor for world stability and the propeller of world peace."