One highlight of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first overseas trip will be a stop in China. Her main mission in Beijing will be to ensure that U.S.-China relations under the new Obama administration get off to a positive start.
China is looking forward to welcoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Beijing. This sentiment has been stressed repeatedly by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
Jiang says China sees this as an important high-level exchange between the two countries.
She says her government hopes the two sides can have in-depth discussions on Sino-American relations, the international financial crisis and other issues of mutual concern.
Speaking in New York before departing for Asia, Secretary Clinton said Washington sees a good relationship with China as essential.
"It is even clearer now, in economic hard times and in the array of global challenges we face, from nuclear security to climate change to pandemic disease and so much else."
She listed other areas of American concern, including talks aimed at stopping North Korea's nuclear program and China's international peacekeeping efforts.
Human rights activists in China also hope that Secretary Clinton will put pressure on the Chinese government to improve its human rights record.
Ding Zilin's son was killed by Chinese troops in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Chinese authorities detained her in 1995, when then-First Lady Clinton was in Beijing for the United Nations Women's Conference.
Ding says Hillary Clinton's name is very familiar to Chinese people. She credits Clinton with lending her key support to successful efforts to get Ding out of detention.
She says she hopes Secretary Clinton can talk to Chinese authorities about Liu Xiaobo, a dissident who has been in detention for more than two months for helping to formulate a major human rights document called Charter 08. Among other things, it calls for multi-party democracy and legal reform.
Orville Schell, the director of the Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations, says he thinks there is another, more urgent, issue that "should move to the head of the line." That issue is climate change.
"This is the challenge of our time. We are on the precipice of a very deep and threatening abyss," Schell said.
He says this does not mean that other issues - such as trade disputes and human rights differences - are not important.
"But it also means, I think, that if the U.S. and China could successfully begin to gain some collaborative momentum on climate change, I think many of these other issues would become less intractable and more easy to resolve, because we would have, at the heart of the matter, some common purpose," Schell said.
China and the United States are the world's two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
Chinese Professor Sun Zhe directs the U.S.-China Relations Center at Beijing's Tsinghua University. He also thinks Secretary Clinton's talks with Chinese leaders will focus largely on environmental and economic issues.
"[The] main part will be climate change and energy cooperation, the financial crisis - this kind of more important things, more urgent things," the professor said.
Sun says he thinks Secretary Clinton will mention human rights insome of her talks, to "express some American values."
"Some of her views on human rights are already known in China," Sun noted. "But people, at least as far as I know, the people from the ministries, policy practitioners, and in academia, people here in China, we understand her point of view, but we also think that China can work with her in other areas."
Secretary Clinton arrives in China Friday. While in Beijing, she is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. She also is set to attend a church service, meet with civil society leaders and tour a Sino-American thermal power plant before leaving China, Sunday.