On agenda with China: trade challenges
A Chinese delegation preceding President Hu's visit Thursday has announced several key economic moves.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao calls on President Bush at the White House Thursday, it will undoubtedly be fraught with all the economic and strategic anxieties besetting the "superpower meets rising giant" relationship.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet even as the Pentagon voices concern over China's expanding military power, and Congress frets over China's economic position in a globalized world, the meeting of the two leaders can be expected to highlight cooperation and the relationship's benefits over its problems.
That's because the two countries need each other, especially economically - while the last thing either leader needs right now is another problem on his plate.
"We've got two besieged leaders in their own way, and neither one is looking to be a problem to the other, nor does he want the other to become a problem," says David Lampton, director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Mr. Bush wants signs of cooperation from China: on Iran and the diplomatic effort to curtail its nuclear ambitions, on making transparency a part of China's military buildup, and on opening up the Asian giant's galloping economy.
For his part, Mr. Hu - whose visit to the White House set for last September was put off by hurricane Katrina - is anxious to lower the heat around Sino-American relations, while reducing the chances of any US actions that could put him in hot water.
"It's clear there is increasing tension between the two countries, on the economy and around security issues, so a dominant objective of Hu will be to defuse some of this," says Oded Shenkar, a global business management expert specializing in China at Ohio State University in Columbus. "[The Chinese] realize they are at a point where a little spark could set off an explosion."
Hu and other Chinese leaders are increasingly aware of a link between the course of domestic challenges and smooth relations with the United States, says Mr. Shenkar, whose recent book, "The Chinese Century," looks at China's impact on the global economy.
"Already they have seen how restrictions on Chinese garment exports affect the employment of people from the countryside," and how that in turn affects urbanization and other worrisome domestic issues, Shenkar says. "They have become more and more sensitive to how the internal and external are linked."
Evidence of that can be seen in the way the Chinese are charting the presidential visit - and in particular how they are using it to reach American public opinion.
Preceding Hu's calling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a sizable trade delegation that is already in the US, visiting 13 states and rolling out a number of contracts to buy American products. A prime objective is to demonstrate a cooperative stance on key American concerns such as the US trade deficit with China - which reached $202 billion last year.
"They are becoming more sophisticated and not just making announcements in Washington," says Mr. Lampton.