Tue, Nov 30, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Bush and Hu build a relationship

By Lin Cheng-yi林正義

Chinese President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) first trip abroad after taking control of the party, government and military lasted for two weeks. In addition to laying to rest rumors that he was in bad health, he actively showed off his ability to rule at the APEC summit.

Hu took advantage of the summit to set up at least 13 bilateral meetings with other leaders. He also made state visits to Argentina, Brazil and Cuba, and on Nov. 20, he met with US President George W. Bush, following up on last year's annual APEC meeting in Bangkok. Bush and Hu will probably continue to meet at the APEC summit over the next few years.

At the APEC forum, Hu focused on China's economic development and on proposing multilateralism. In his bilateral meetings, however, he repeatedly brought up the Taiwan issue and instructed other countries to not support Taiwan's independence. He called on APEC member countries to strengthen economic and development cooperation, and announced that China will establish an Asia Pacific finance and development center offering member states a platform for exchange, cooperation and competency-building.

In addition to using the APEC forum to advocate economic liberalization, Bush told Hu that trade relations between their countries must be founded on justice and fairness, and he also pushed for APEC cooperation on security issues. For example, APEC member states agreed to strengthen cooperation to combat terrorism by applying strict controls on portable air defense weapons systems and also implementing International Atomic Energy Agency regulations and international security regarding marine transportation and harbors.

The US is also cooperating with Australia to track lost passports and with Singapore to set up a regional disease control center to contain the threat of bio-terrorism attacks.

In Chile, Bush and Hu extended invitations to each other in the hope that they and their countries will continue to cooperate over the next four years. At a press conference following the meeting, Bush specifically brought up the North Korean issue, the situation on the Korean Peninsula and peace in the Asia Pacific region.

He also mentioned economic relations between China and the US, but did not mention Taiwan. According to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Bush expressed concern over the missiles China has aimed at Taiwan. Although China has not explicitly asked the US to stop selling arms to Taiwan, Beijing requested that the US' Taiwan policy be consistent.

According to information made public by China, Bush said during the meeting between the two leaders that he understands the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, maintains the US' "one China" policy, respects the three Sino-US communiques, does not support unilateral changes to Taiwan's status quo or a declaration of independence, and that he will not give inconsistent signals to Taiwan.

Hu stressed that Taiwanese independence will mean an end to peace in the Taiwan Strait and destroy stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific. He invoked statements that the US will continue to oppose Taiwanese independence. Although the US currently does not support peaceful unification between Taiwan and China, it should come as no surprise if Bush in future adjusts his position from not supporting Taiwanese independence to unambiguously opposing it.

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