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Bush Prepares for Hu Visit


President Bush is urging Americans to embrace the challenge posed by China's booming economy. In the days leading up to his first Washington summit with visiting Chinese leader Hu Jintao, Mr. Bush is focusing on the need to boost investment in science and technology.

As Hu Jintao's plane was touching down on America's west coast, President Bush was touring a special public school in a Washington D.C. suburb where scientists from the national space agency, NASA, are teachers.

He looked on as a group of 12- and 13-year-olds demonstrated skills necessary to design a basic robot.

The president went to Parkland Middle School in Rockville, Maryland to make a point: that America needs to act now if it wants to remain the leader in the world economy.

"We've got a good economy right now," said Mr. Bush. "It's growing at rapid paces and there's a lot of new jobs being added, and productivity is high, and people are owning homes, and that's all positive. The fundamental question is: How do we make sure that is the case next year, five years and 10 years from now?"

Mr. Bush talked about an important choice facing the United States. He said Americans can look at the economic growth of countries like China and turn isolationist, or they can embrace the challenge and become more competitive.

"I tell people we shouldn't fear the future," he added. "What we ought to do is shape the future. We ought to be in charge of our future and the way to do so is to make sure we are the most innovative country in the world."

The president acknowledged that the realities of the global economy have created a sense of uncertainty for some Americans. But he stressed the United States can remain the world's economic leader if it invests in research, and improves educational opportunities for its young people in science and technology.

"If you're living in Midland, Texas, or living in Montgomery County, Maryland, it's important to understand if children don't have those skills needed to compete with a child from India, or a child from China, the new jobs will be going there," he noted.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bush proposed a significant increase in federal funding for basic research and for programs to spur learning in math and science.

He is expected to talk about the so-called competitiveness initiative again on Wednesday during a visit to an historically black college in the state of Alabama. Once again, the president is likely to point to the visit of Hu Jintao and cite China's role as both a strategic friend and an economic competitor.

Aides say economic issues are likely to top the broad agenda for Thursday's meeting at the White House, with an emphasis on trade matters. However White House officials indicate no major announcements are expected.