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Biden to Discuss Economy, Human Rights During China Visit


US Vice President Joseph Biden, left, shakes hands with Chinese National Peoples Congress Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo during their meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China, August 18, 2011

US Vice President Joseph Biden, left, shakes hands with Chinese National Peoples Congress Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo during their meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China, August 18, 2011

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has opened a five-day visit to China, telling his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that the two nations hold the key to global economic stability.

During opening remarks Thursday, China's official Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying the two countries share great interests and responsibilities. He also said benefits of an enhanced bilateral relationship extend beyond the two nations to the larger world. Biden replied that global economic stability depends "in no small part" on cooperation between the two countries.

Biden's visit comes less than two weeks after an unprecedented U.S. credit downgrade, a move that sparked global concerns about the safety of dollar assets.

Ahead of Biden's arrival, U.S. officials said the vice president would emphasize that the United States is economically sound and that Chinese investments are safe. He is also expected to press China to allow its currency, the yuan, to rise in value against the dollar.

The United States and other countries say China's currency is severely undervalued, giving it an unfair trade advantage by making its products cheaper overseas. China has allowed the yuan to rise by about 7 percent since June 2010, and argues a more rapid increase would disrupt its economy.

China holds about $1 trillion of the U.S. debt, making it the United States' biggest foreign creditor. It has expressed concern that the recent U.S. deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and barely avoid default does not do enough to cut the budget deficit.

Biden is slated to meet Friday with Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. He will also join a roundtable discussion with Chinese and U.S. business leaders, before traveling Saturday with Xi to the southwestern province of Sichuan. In Sichuan, the two vice presidents will tour areas devastated by a 2008 earthquake.

Biden's nine-day Asian tour also takes him next week to Mongolia and Japan.

In Washington Wednesday, a State Department spokeswoman said Biden will raise U.S. concerns about the human rights situation throughout China, as the government consistently does.

The spokeswoman also urged China to immediately release rights lawyer Gao Zhishen from custody and clarify his whereabouts. Gao has not been heard from in over a year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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