Hu Jintao in America: 7 questions about the Chinese president's visit

Hu Jintao will be the guest of President Obama this week for what some US-China experts are calling the most important US visit by a Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping’s groundbreaking trip in 1979. The intrigue then was around the opening-up of the communist giant. But some three decades later the focus is very different, as China becomes an increasingly active and self-confident player both in the international economy and on the global diplomatic stage. Here are seven key questions pertaining to US-China relations in light of President Hu's visit:

Luis M. Alvarez/AP
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi speaks as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks on during a meeting at the US State Department in Washington earlier this month. The US hopes to discuss a number of issues during a state visit on Jan. 19, including Chinese currency, the US-China trade balance, and North Korea.

1. How important will economic issues be?

Larry Downing/Reuters
President Barack Obama (r.) and Chinese President Hu Jintao stand together during an official South Lawn arrival ceremony for Hu at the White House in Washington on Jan. 19.

Obama says he wants to focus on jobs and the economy in 2011, and he will have an early opportunity to underscore that emphasis with Hu’s visit. Obama calls for a “rebalancing” of trade relations – currently China’s trade surplus with the US has ballooned to nearly $230 billion – so that the Chinese become bigger consumers of products “made in USA.”

Another key element for the US is improving Chinese respect for intellectual property rights. In the run-up to Hu’s visit, Chinese trade officials have promised tighter controls on the thefts of foreign innovations and violation of copyrights, but the administration wants more than promises.

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