Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) took his political roadshow to the US heartland yesterday, visiting Chicago to highlight business and cultural ties between the world’s two largest economies.
Leaving behind the rancor of Washington where he was pressed on human rights and currency policy, Hu was feted by the Chicago elite at a gala dinner in US President Barack Obama’s hometown. He was to wrap up his four-day US state visit with stops at a local school and a business exhibition.
Analysts said Hu’s trip had gone smoothly enough to help set a better tone to the relationship after a flare-up in tensions last year over issues such as trade, North Korea and Internet censorship.
Chinese media lauded Hu’s visit as a “historic masterstroke” in easing tensions.
State television news channels gave blanket coverage of Hu’s state dinner and welcome at the White House, in a reflection of China’s desire for its leader to be portrayed as a valued and honored player on the world stage, but the reports largely ignored thornier questions of currency and human rights.
The visit has been billed by some experts as the most important US-China visit in more than 30 years. Obama has said the relationship between the two countries will help shape the 21st century.
Wednesday’s choreographed White House summit, the centerpiece of Hu’s trip, was mostly glitch-free and featured the pomp and ceremony China covets as a symbol of its rising global stature.
US officials touted an acknowledgment from Hu at a joint press conference that more needs to be done on human rights and welcomed US$45 billion in export deals with China.
They also said the visit helped to serve both leaders’ goal of deepening bilateral ties.
“We believe we come out of here advancing the shared view of the relationship that both the US and China have and, I think, that both presidents have, which is that we should identify issues of common interest and aim to build cooperative approaches on those issues,” US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a video conference with Beijing bloggers.
On human rights, many activists doubt the comments at the summit would lead to an increase in freedoms in China.
“Recently, we’ve seen a large regression. Hu’s statements might be considered a form of progress, but the fact is that fundamental rights are still not guaranteed,” rights lawyer Li Fangping (李方平) said. “The central government knows this, but it has not acted to cure the problem.”
One aim of Hu’s Chicago trip was to present a more benign image of China to Americans wary of its growing economic might and upset over what they view as unfair trade policies.
Chicago is the financial center of the Midwest, which has many of the products China buys. China bought more than half the soybeans exported by the US last year. The Asian giant also buys cars, steel, construction and farming equipment, and pharmaceuticals.
Hu has urged economic cooperation and portrayed the US-China trade relationship as win-win.
“China wishes to work with the United States to fully tap our cooperation potential in fiscal, financial, energy, environmental, infrastructure development and other fields,” Hu told Thursday’s dinner, attended by a number of corporate executives.
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