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US to China Don't cling to ''old ways''

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Mar 16 (Reuters) The White House pressed China today for further reforms of what it called ''discredited'' trade policies and criticized its military expansion in a hardening of the US line on the Asia-Pacific power.

The rebuke to China was contained in a new national security strategy, the first comprehensive update since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, that singled out longtime foes Iran and North Korea for its most strident language.

But the White House also made clear it regarded China, which has coupled economic expansion with a major military build-up, as a growing challenge to US interests.

And it issued a veiled threat, saying, ''Our strategy seeks to encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge against other possibilities.'' Voicing concern about China's trade tactics, the document said Beijing was ''expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up -- as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era.'' President George W. Bush, under pressure to rein in the US deficit with China, promised last week to keep the heat on Beijing to float its currency. US manufacturers and lawmakers have been vocal about the yuan, which they contend is undervalued, making Chinese goods unfairly cheap.

Stepped-up US criticism comes at a sensitive juncture. US officials have made no formal announcement about an expected visit to Washington by Chinese President Hu Jintao but many experts believe it has been targeted for late April.

URGING FURTHER REFORMS The document released on Thursday praised China's economic reforms but suggested the changes did not go deep enough. It urged Beijing to broaden democratic freedoms.

''China's leaders must realize ... that they cannot stay on this peaceful path while holding on to old ways of thinking and acting that exacerbate concerns throughout the region and the world,'' it said.

The document reiterated US concerns about the ''non-transparent'' expansion of China's military. The 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army is the world's largest standing force.

The document also voiced criticism of China for ''supporting resource-rich countries without regard to the misrule at home or misbehavior abroad of those regimes,'' an apparent reference to ties with countries like Iran, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

It called on Beijing to act as a ''responsible stakeholder'' in the global economic system.

The White House also pressed Beijing for political reforms.

''Ultimately, China's leaders must see that they cannot let their population increasingly experience the freedoms to buy, sell and produce, while denying them the rights to assemble, speak and worship,'' the document said.

It said China and Taiwan must ''resolve their differences peacefully, without coercion and without unilateral action by either China or Taiwan.'' REUTERS SK RAI0240

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