President Xi Jinping's impending state visit to the United States will focus attention on the widening differences between the two countries rather than their common interests despite a slowing economy and other domestic Chinese problems.

No issue is knottier than human rights, or as pressing. We received a preview last month when, for the first time in two years, a human rights dialogue was held. Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, who led the American delegation, briefed the media afterward. Those present included representatives of China's state media.

In opening remarks, Malinowski said there was a "growing sense of alarm" about human rights developments in China and that the issue "will be very prominently addressed" during the state visit. He called for "specific improvements."