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Chinese Leader Seeks to Dispel US Suspicions During Upcoming Trip 

  • Luis Ramirez

Chinese President Hu Jintao is set to begin his first trip to the United States since taking office two years ago. He hopes to quell U.S. suspicions about China's rising profile as a world economic player and its rapid military buildup.

For weeks, Chinese officials have been planning a strategy for President Hu Jintao to use to ease trade frictions and security concerns with the United States.

He Yafei, director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's office of North American and Oceanic affairs, told reporters in Beijing that Mr. Hu's message to President Bush and the American people will be clear.

"China's development is peaceful development," said He Yafei. "The peaceful development is conducive not only to the Chinese people, but also to the American people and the people of the world. Through the visit, the American people and the people of the world will have a better understanding of China's peaceful development."

In the eyes of Chinese officials and analysts, U.S. suspicions became especially pronounced two months ago when members of Congress opposed the sale of a large American oil company to a Chinese corporation on the grounds that it would threaten national security.

"The U.S. is now concerned about China's sudden search for energy supplies all over the world, [and is] also concerned about China's military modernization," says professor Shi Yinhong, who directs the Center for American Studies at the People's University in Beijing.

The Pentagon released a report in July saying that China's military buildup poses a threat to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a part of its territory and has threatened to take by force. China opposes U.S. weapons sales to the island and President Hu is expected to raise the issue yet again with U.S. officials.

Relations have been troubled further recently by trade. Among the issues: the failure of the two governments to agree on curbing Chinese textile exports to the United States; growing American frustration over its trade deficit with China, now at $162 billion, and Washington's complaints about Chinese counterfeiting of U.S. products.

Political analysts say President Hu will be eager to showcase concessions to U.S. demands that China has recently made. These include - most prominently - Beijing's July decision to raise the value of its currency, which some politicians in the United States have said is too low, making Chinese products artificially cheap and costing U.S. jobs.

Professor Chen Jian, an expert on Sino-U.S. relations at Cornell University in the United States, says the visit gives both sides a chance to highlight the areas where they do agree.

"Between China and the United States, there are shared interests in economic development and also especially the Korean peninsula issue. To exchange opinions between the Chinese and the U.S. leaders is important for Hu Jintao," said Chen Jian.

However, some analysts, including professor Shi at People's University, caution against expecting anything more than reassurances from Mr. Hu on the key issues of China's military modernization or its need to secure energy sources to fuel development.

"China has in its national interests to insist on this line, and so I don't believe that China will make major concessions on the energy front, or on the military buildup front," said professor Shi. "Communication is still important, but there still will be major problems between the two countries for a long time."

Chinese officials say no official agreements with the United States are on the agenda.

Mr. Hu's North American trip begins Monday in the United States. He will meet with President Bush at the White House on Wednesday.

The trip start in the West Coast city of Seattle, where he will visit Microsoft and Boeing - companies that do extensive business in China. It will also include a speech at Yale University.

The Chinese leader is also scheduled to go to Canada and Mexico before returning to the United States for a visit to United Nations General Assembly in New York.

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