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Chinese PM Wen Jiabao to Discuss Trade, Taiwan in Washington - 2003-12-07


Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has a list of issues to discuss on his first trip to Washington this week, and many observers think trade will be one of his priorities.

The Chinese government says the situation in Taiwan will top the agenda during Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Washington. Mr. Wen is making his first visit to the United States since taking office early this year.

Vice Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong, said recently there are problems between the United States and China, but Taiwan, not trade, is the most important.

"Of course there are problems in our relationship that need to be taken seriously by both sides," he said. "With the Taiwan question being the most important and the most sensitive one."

Taiwan recently passed a law allowing referendums on various issues, including sovereignty if the island is threatened by China. Beijing officials have indicated they consider the referendum law a step toward declaring independence.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and says it will use force if the island declares independence. The United States is asking the two sides to stick to the status quo, but has pledged to defend Taiwan if China attacks. Washington also is Taiwan's main arms supplier, a fact that irritates Beijing.

In addition to Taiwan, diplomats and political analysts expect trade will take up much of Mr. Wen's visit. China has a growing trade surplus with the United States, which is quickly becoming a political issue in next year's U.S. presidential election.

In a Beijing park, many people think Mr. Wen and President Bush should talk about trade.

A woman says that since China joined the World Trade Organization, the United States has created some policies that have hurt China, including antidumping policies placed on some Chinese products.

A man, however, thinks Taiwan should top the agenda. He says Taiwan might be the most important because Taiwan has been working to achieve independence. Since The United States plays a key role in the situation, he argues that the leaders should exchange ideas so the United States can understand China's views.

Other Beijing residents are more concerned with the overall tone of relations between Beijing and Washington. One elderly man points to a newspaper headline that reads, "cooperation means mutual benefit while struggle means mutual pain."

He says many issues, including trade, Taiwan, Iraq and Israel will be discussed. As a common citizen, he says he does not know which problem is the most important. But he hopes Prime Minister Wen and President Bush will remember what the newspaper says.

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