Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Wed, May 20, 2020

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Obama Speaks Candidly About China, Cyber Security

Barack Obama

(Photo : REUTERS/LARRY DOWNING) President Barack Obama answers questions from business leaders while at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable in Washington, December 3, 2014.

Speaking frankly about China Wednesday, U.S. President Obama said the Asian nation had a very strong interest in good U.S. relations, but was wary of how quickly Chinese President Xi Jinping had consolidated his power.

Speaking at Washington D.C.  to the Business Roundtable group containing many of America's top chief executives, Obama said he was impressed with Xi's rapid rise to consolidated power, exhibiting the most control of nation's government since Deng Xiaping from 1978 to 1992.

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"Everybody's been impressed by his clout inside of China after only a year-and-a-half or two years," Obama said.

Obama also praised China for having a very strong interest in remaining in good terms with the U.S. despite friction points like cyber security abuses China has been accused of employing against government groups and businesses in the U.S. Obama said it was "indisputable that they engage in it, and it is a problem," adding U.S. officials "push them hard on it."

Chief executives who believed they were being "strong-armed" on cyber security issues should speak out, Obama said, even if they faced risks of blowback inside China.

As for the South China Sea, Obama said Xi's policy tapped into Chinese nationalism that concerns its neighbors. Then there's the question of human rights with Xi's government seemed more dangerous in terms of human rights and "clamping down on dissent."

Obama spoke with a bit of knowledge about Xi, since he met with the Chinese leader last month at Beijing. He said he confident China wanted to pursue a win-win framework. He was encouraged that the U.S. and China could maintain a productive relationship in a positive  global context.

Obama covered several high profile topics during his profile business roundtable appearance. He spoke about the economy, encouraging; about Russia, he was less optimistic; reforming the tax code so it helps everybody, maybe if Republicans cooperate and the future, global economic weakness could "pull back" the U.S. rise to economic recovery.

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