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China's Hu brings deals and promises to wary US

By Staff
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BEIJING, Apr 18: Chinese President Hu Jintao left for the United States today bearing business deals and soothing words intended to allay US fears about China's ambitions, but he faces a US audience keen for more results.

The highlight of Hu's four-day trip will be a summit on Thursday with President George W. Bush. But he will first touch down in Seattle, where he will tour a production plant of Boeing Co., whose business has boomed on Chinese orders.

Hu, whose entourage includes his foreign and trade ministers, will also dine at the 100 million dollar home of Bill Gates, the Chairman of Microsoft Corp. and the world's richest man.

China sought to quell US trade complaints by signing contracts worth 16.2 billion dollars while Vice Premier Wu Yi visited the United States last week, an editorial in the state-run China Daily today said.

''Hu's trip is set to clear US minds of doubts and suspicion about China,'' the newspaper said.

But yesterday, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said Beijing had been ''agonisingly slow'' in reforming its currency -- a key demand in Washington, where many say China's yuan is undervalued, making Chinese exports artificially cheap.

Hu is seeking to calm US audiences not only about trade, but also China's long-range ambitions.

In Seattle, Hu will meet US and Chinese academics, including Zheng Bijian, a long-time Communist Party adviser who has promoted the idea that China's ''peaceful rise'' need not provoke severe conflict with Washington.

STATE VISIT?

In Washington DC, Hu will have lunch at the White House, though not the state banquet China has pressed for. China insists Hu's trip is a fully fledged state visit, but the White House has said it is not. Analysts on both sides have said the White House meeting is unlikely to produce major breakthroughs on trade and diplomatic strains, which include differing approaches to the crises over the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

Rather, each leader will be looking for general commitments that address his own concerns.

Bush has singled out his country's trade deficit with China -- 202 billion dollars in 2005 -- as his sorest point.

Bush also has plans to press Hu to do more to stamp out commercial piracy of US patents, brands and copyrights. And he has said he wants China to loosen currency controls faster to help balance trade flows.

But Chinese officials have said recently that their country must move at its own pace and will not be pushed by Washington into sudden currency and trade changes.

Vice Premier Wu said it was ''unscientific'' to blame China alone for the bilateral trade gap.

Hu wants to ensure stable relations with Washington as he prepares for a major Communist Party congress in 2007 and then Beijing's 2008 Olympics, Chinese academics and diplomats said.

He also wants Bush to offer some assurance that the United States will give no leeway to Taiwan's independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian, Chinese analysts said. Beijing says the self-ruled island must accept reunification with the mainland after over half a century of separation.

Beijing fears Chen may use the remaining two years of his presidency to push Taiwan closer to full independence, a course China has warned could trigger a military response.

Taiwan, worried about the outcome of the Bush-Hu meeting, set up a task force to monitor Hu's tour around the clock and urged Washington not to criticise its president or undermine its democracy during the summit.

But reassurance, not threats, will be Hu's theme in the United States. After Washington DC, he will go to Yale University to give a speech on China's ''peaceful development''.

REUTERS

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