Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is looking to assure Americans that they should not fear China's economic rise, using Chinese President Hu Jintao's high-profile state visit to announce job-creating business deals worth billions of dollars to U.S. companies.
On another big American concern, human rights, Hu conceded that "a lot still needs to be done" to improve China's record.
The business deals and Hu's human rights comments were among the highlights of a ceremony-packed day seen as key to building trust between the world's top two powers.
Five years after his last visit to the White House, one that was marred by protocol blunders, Hu was feted Wednesday with the full pomp of a state visit, including a lavish dinner with some of Washington's most powerful figures and other luminaries.
The two sides played down differences and stressed areas of cooperation, ranging from a plan to cooperate on nuclear security to an extension of the loan of two Chinese pandas to Washington's zoo.
On Thursday, Hu could face a tougher audience when he meets with U.S. lawmakers — a few of whom skipped the dinner and have been deeply critical of China's authoritarian government.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Hu "a dictator" in an interview Wednesday, although he later tried to recant the comment. In the House, several Republican lawmakers assailed the Chinese government's record on human rights, military expansion, financial strategy and weapons sales.
Later Thursday, Hu was to address trade and economic concerns at the U.S.-China Business Council in Washington.
Economic ties, long seen as a source of stability in the often rocky U.S.-China relationship, have caused friction in recent years. U.S. manufacturers assert that China undervalues its currency by as much as 40 percent, making its exports cheaper at the expense of those from the United States, contributing to high U.S. unemployment.
Obama bluntly restated that concern Wednesday, saying China's government had "intervened very forcefully" in the currency markets to the tune of $200 billion "just recently." He also highlighted intellectual property rights violations, citing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as saying that only 1 customer in 10 of Microsoft products in China is actually paying for them.
But Obama also stressed the importance of the growing economic bonds between the two superpowers and said China was taking significant steps to curtail the theft of intellectual property and expand U.S. investment.
He said the newly announced business deals worth $45 billion — which include a highly sought-after $19 billion deal for 200 Boeing airplanes — would help create 235,000 U.S. jobs, in addition to the half-million U.S. jobs already generated by the United States' annual $100 billion in exports to China.
"I absolutely believe China's peaceful rise is good for the world, and it's good for America," Obama told a joint news conference, addressing a major concern in Beijing that the United States wants to see China's growth constrained.
"We just want to make sure that (its) rise occurs in a way that reinforces international norms, international rules, and enhances security and peace, as opposed to it being a source of conflict either in the region or around the world," Obama said.
Standing alongside one another at podiums, against a backdrop of U.S. and Chinese flags, the two leaders vowed closer cooperation on critical issues such as increasing trade and combating nuclear proliferation. But they also acknowledged their differences, especially over human rights.
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