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US Congressional Delegation Arrives in China

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, is greeted by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at Foreign Ministry in Beijing Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The largest-ever delegation of U.S. senators to visit China has met with top leaders in the Chinese capital.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leading the delegation, which includes nine other senators.

The group met Thursday in Beijing with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and the head of the Chinese legislature, Wu Bangguo.

Few details have come out, but economic ties are one item on the agenda. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stressed that a good Sino-American relationship is more important than ever.

Hong says the Sino-American economic relationship has gone far beyond affecting just the two countries and now has global impact.

Another issue expected to be discussed is human rights -- with an emphasis on American concern about China’s ongoing crackdown on dissent.

The Chinese spokesman acknowledges that Beijing and Washington do have their differences, although he stopped short of mentioning human rights.

Hong pointed out that the two countries have historical and cultural differences and that they are at different stages of economic development. He is urging the United States to strengthen communication, increase its understanding of China and avoid politicizing economic issues.

The American senators met Wednesday with senior Chinese leaders, including Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and the head of the central bank, Zhou Xiaochun. They also met with U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who leaves China at the end of this month.

The American lawmakers also will visit clean energy project sites in Chengdu and Xi’an.