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Bush Wraps Up Olympic Visit, Stresses Ties to China


U.S. President George Bush is stressing the importance of continued American ties with China, saying while there are disagreements, there are also important areas where the two countries can work together. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports he spoke on the final day of his stay at the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Mr. Bush spent his last hours in Beijing watching swimming and baseball, and reflecting on his visit to the Chinese capital.

During an interview with America's NBC television network, he talked about the changes that have taken place in China since the 1970's when his father was a top U.S. diplomatic in Beijing. And he offered some advice for his successor: move quickly to build a cooperative but candid relationship with Chinese leaders.

"It's really important for future Presidents to understand the relationship between China and the region, and it's important to make sure that America is engaged with China - even though we may have some disagreements," he said.

Mr. Bush said he brought up areas of disagreement during his talks in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao. But he also stressed that by working together on sensitive international issues, the United States and China can make a big difference.

"I think you ought to look at the relationship as one of constructive engagement where you can find common areas, like North Korea and Iran, but also be in a position where they respect you enough to listen to your views on religious freedom and political liberty," Mr. Bush said.

During his stay in China, President Bush attended Sunday worship services at a state-registered church, rather than a so-called "underground" church, which operates without government approval. He defended his decision to pray there, saying it gave him a venue to make an important point.

"It gave me a chance to say to the Chinese people, religion won't hurt you, you ought to welcome religious people," he said. "And it gave me a chance to say to the government, why don't you register the underground churches and give them a chance to flourish?"

Mr. Bush said he came to Beijing to cheer on the American Olympic team, but also to show his respect for the Chinese people. He said China is a big, important nation, and in order to find common ground and overcome disagreements, it is necessary for the United States and China to respect each other.

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