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New US Embassy Considered Symbolic of Growing Relations With China


President Bush dedicated a massive $434 million U.S. Embassy in Beijing, calling it a symbol of deepening ties between the two trading partners. The eight-story American Embassy is the second-largest in the world, after the heavily fortified U.S. mission compound in Baghdad. The big building with the hefty price-tag reflects the growing importance of U.S.-China relations despite disputes over a range of issues. Mandy Clark reports from Beijing.

It is big, the second-largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world. The 500,000 square-foot structure stands on 10 acres in a new diplomatic zone in Beijing and is wrapped in free-standing transparent and opaque bullet-proof glass.

During its recent inauguration President Bush emphasized the combined efforts of the two countries to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons, battle diseases and respond to natural disasters. But he also criticized the Communist nation's repression of its people.

"We continue to be candid about our belief that all people should have the freedom to say what they think and worship as they choose. We strongly believe societies which allow the free expression of ideas tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful," Mr. Bush said.

It was the comment that spurred a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman to accuse Mr. Bush of interfering in China's internal affairs.

Diplomatic contacts between the U.S. and China have increased under Mr. Bush. In 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing had a staff of about 500. Now it has more than twice that number. President Bush said the new embassy proves America's commitment to continue strengthening ties with China.

But outside the new embassy, there were mixed reactions from one visiting American tourist.

"This building is outlandish, I think it's really quite amazing. I don't think we need a compound like this, but I think the relations in the world, China is the up-and-coming superpower, and we have to be engaged no matter what," he said.

State Department staff architect, John Holleran, said the building is actually more subdued that many recent new buildings in Beijing.

"It seems like this is an 'anything goes' type of atmosphere with the CCTV tower, National Theatre, Birds Nest and the Water Cube," Holleran said. "This is a very vibrant time, we are an embassy and I think our design is a little more restrained that some of the other building I've mentioned."

China is now America's second biggest trading partner, after Canada and at its dedication, President Bush said the impressive complex speaks to the importance of America's relations with China.

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