China's President Hu Jintao goes to Washington
As China and the US emerge from a year of diplomatic spats, Beijing appears more optimistic than Washington on what can come out of President Hu Jintao's visit to the White House this week.
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US offers to mediate between China and her neighbors in territorial disputes, meanwhile, “suggests to many Chinese that America wants to take advantage of these disputes and use them as a knife with which to stab China in the back,” says Liu Qing, head of American studies at the Foreign Ministry’s think tank.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures China's military muscle
In Pictures China's landmarks
In Pictures Hu Jintao's Washington visit
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Washington, meanwhile, is wondering what purposes lie behind China’s rapid military modernization. The expected deployment this year of China’s first aircraft carrier, and its work on a ballistic antiship missile known as a “carrier killer” have fed fears in the Pentagon that Beijing intends to threaten the US military presence in the western Pacific.
Hu’s visit to Washington, expected to be his last before he steps down in 2012, “is a good opportunity for the top leaders to explain their strategic intentions to each other face to face,” says Professor Chu, an expert in Sino-US relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
“Hu Jintao can assure Obama that China does not want to challenge the US in the western Pacific, that we are still following the policy of a peaceful rise, and the US can reassure China that they are not trying to contain us,” he suggests.
“This is a strategic visit and President Hu will mainly talk about how to improve bilateral mutual trust,” adds Mr. Liu.
Instead, they are due for discussion in wide ranging military-to-military talks that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed during a visit to Beijing last week, which Chinese officials said they would consider.
Obama and Hu are expected to address economic issues: Beijing wants greater investment opportunities in the US and an end to Washington’s embargo on high-tech exports. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a speech last week that the US would consider these issues in the light of Chinese concessions on US concerns, such as a revaluation of the Chinese currency and barriers to US companies operating in China.
Trade deals are likely, including a Chinese order for Boeing jets and a pledge to buy more US farm products. But even before it has begun, argues Kenneth Lieberthal, who served as an Asia expert in the Clinton administration, the summit has already produced “quite significant, substantive and relatively positive outcomes.”
That is because in the run-up to Hu’s visit, the desire to make it a success has prompted Beijing to take a number of steps Washington had been pressing for, says Professor Lieberthal.
The renminbi currency has risen, albeit slowly, Beijing appears to have successfully restrained North Korea from actions such as shelling its neighbor to the south, and in negotiations last December the Chinese promised to curb intellectual property theft and to stop favoring domestic producers over foreign competitors.
“A lot of things have been moving in a better direction,” says Lieberthal. “The question coming out of the summit will be whether these things are followed through effectively.”