President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao have completed their first White House summit. It was a day long on symbolism, and short on breakthroughs.
The day began with pomp and ceremony as President Bush welcomed Mr. Hu.
There was a wide agenda for the Chinese leader's first White House summit. But when reporters were brought in at the end of the talks it became clear that no significant progress was made. Instead, the two leaders stressed the importance of sitting down and talking candidly about the issues. "We don't agree on everything. But we are able to discuss our disagreements in a spirit of friendship and cooperation," he said.
There was no new announcement on how to ease the stunning imbalance in U.S. China trade, nor did the Chinese leader indicate any new steps to counter American criticism of China's human rights record.
Earlier, at the arrival ceremony, President Bush said China, which has taken great strides to promote economic freedom, must do more to protect the individual rights of its citizens. "China's become successful because the Chinese people have experienced the freedom to buy and to sell and to produce. And China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, speak freely and to worship," he said.
Groups of demonstrators lined nearby streets while President Hu was at the White House. Most protested China's human rights policies, although some held up red banners welcoming President Hu.
As he began to speak at the arrival ceremony, a protester began to shout from a nearby press area, urging President Bush to call for an end to Chinese oppression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. Mr. Bush was clearly annoyed. As the heckler was led off the White House grounds, the president signaled to the Chinese leader to continue his remarks.
President Hu talked at some length about the strategic partnership of China and the United States. He said China is ready to work with the America to peacefully resolve the nuclear disputes involving Iran and North Korea.
White House officials who took part in the summit told reporters Hu Jintao appeared frustrated by North Korea's reluctance to return to the six-party talks hosted by Beijing. They said President Bush stressed China also has a key role to play in dealings with Tehran.
These officials downplayed the lack of a big breakthrough at the summit and noted that in his arrival statement Mr. Hu pledged to move China from an export economy to one that is consumer driven. They say that commitment, coming from a Chinese leader at the White House, was an important event. But they added that at the end of the day what really matters is not a commitment, but results.