Progress on trade between the United States and China is the highlight of a visit to Washington this week by Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi, but at the same time, U.S. officials have more sobering assessments on human rights and defense issues in China, in testimony Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Republican Senator Sam Brownback said more than one-third of China's $438-billion worth of exports worldwide last year came to the United States.
"By contrast, our exports from the United States were $714 billion, but our percentage going to China was four percent," he noted. "That's no wonder our trade deficit with China will likely top $130 billion this year."
Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi was quoted by official Chinese media as calling her high-level meetings Wednesday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman a complete success.
The most significant agreement to emerge from the talks is China's promise to crack down on the illegal copying and counterfeiting of billions of dollars of U.S. goods. China also approved several genetically modified agricultural products. American companies hope these steps will help increase U.S. exports to China.
In his testimony to the Senate, though, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless warned that much of China's earnings go into defense.
"We estimate total defense-related expenditures this year would be between $50 and $70 billion, ranking China third in defense spending, after the United States and Russia."
Mr. Lawless added that China's Peoples' Liberation Army is not only improving its naval and communications capabilities, it will also increase the number of missiles it has pointed at Taiwan, an independently-governed island that Beijing regards as Chinese territory.
He said that China currently has about 500 to 550 short-range ballistic missiles along the Taiwan Strait.
"This deployment is increasing at the rate of 75 missiles per year," he said. "The accuracy and lethality of this force also are expected to increase through the use of satellite-aided guidance systems."
China's human rights record was also an issue. Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner acknowledged the country's economic growth, but he also noted the upcoming 15th anniversary of June 4, 1989, when Chinese government troops killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
"In the 15 years since, the Chinese economy has continued to expand," he added. "And constraints on where one can live and what one can do for a living have been relaxed, but the freedom and rights that Tiananmen protesters asked for still have not been realized."
Mr. Craner said China is an important ally in the global U.S. war on terror and is a key partner in discussions about North Korea's nuclear program, but he cautioned that that doesn't mean the United States will be silent about repression in China, at international venues like the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
Meanwhile, visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Wu also met Wednesday with President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. She is due to return to China Saturday.