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Economic Issues Dominate Start of Chinese President's US Trip


Chinese President Hu Jintao, in the first stop of a four-day visit to the United States, focused on business in meetings that took place in the western U.S. city of Seattle, in Washington state. The highlight of his U.S. trip is a meeting with President Bush at the White House on Thursday.

Economic relations between the United States and China took the spotlight during the Chinese leader's stop in the state of Washington.

President Hu had dinner Tuesday night with hundreds of American business leaders at the home of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whom Forbes magazine names the richest man in the world. In his toast, President Hu said since Gates is a friend of China, he is a friend of Gates' company, Microsoft.

On Wednesday, President Hu toured a Boeing plant. China recently announced a multi-billion dollar deal to purchase 80 Boeing aircraft.

The Chinese leader is expected to face a wider range of issues in Washington, the U.S. capital. These subjects include American concerns about nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea and about China's human rights record.

Although the issue of human rights in China has been overshadowed by trade, continuing U.S. interest in human rights was underscored by Congressman Chris Smith, who on Wednesday chaired a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the issue. In his opening remarks, he said critics of Beijing have a long list of concerns.

"...especially such areas as China's censorship of the Internet, implementation of the right of Chinese citizens to worship freely, protection of minority rights, compliance with international labor standards, China's barbaric practice of organ harvesting, and the destructive effects on Chinese society, and especially on women, of its government's coercive one-child per couple policy."

Meanwhile, foreign policy experts say they expect President Bush to discuss global security issues with President Hu, including concerns over nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. Other issues that could come up include Taiwan and concerns over energy security.

The economic issues will likely focus on the record 200-billion dollar U.S. trade deficit with China and U.S. allegations that Beijing artificially keeps its currency undervalued.

There are no expectations of any major announcements, though, which Minxin Pei, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says is apparently fine with both countries. "I think both sides have played a very good game of lowering the expectations for this visit, so the expectations have been set very low. So, if nothing happens, it will be viewed as a success. If something happens, it will be viewed as a spectacular success," he said.

President Bush welcomes the Chinese president at the White House Thursday. Twelve American organizations, including the U.S.-China Business Council and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, are hosting a dinner for President Hu in Washington Thursday night.

On Friday, he will make what is expected to be a major policy speech at Yale University, in the U.S. state of Connecticut.

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