President Bush returned to China on Saturday bearing praise for its "farsighted" economic modernization program and expanded international role, but he cautioned against human rights abuses and unfair trade practices.
Bush, who served here as chief of the U.S. liaison office in 1974-75, was greeted warmly Sunday morning by senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, at the Great Hall of the People. Deng, 84, thanked Bush for visiting China "shortly after you took office" and said, "we two have been good friends."
"I'm delighted to see you looking so well," Bush told the Chinese leader. The session followed a meeting between Bush and Chinese Premier Li Peng.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater called the meeting with Li "a remarkable and unprecedented dialogue, covering issues ranging from Kampuchea (Cambodia), South Korea, North Korea, the Middle East, trade, Afghanistan, Taiwan and nuclear proliferation."
"It was an engaged conversation. We got right down to business. We thought it was an extraordinary conversation," Fitzwater said.
In his meeting with Deng, the two men talked about sports and cards. Bush apologized to Deng that his visit to China was "very short," just 40 hours.
Bush flew to Beijing after two days in Tokyo to attend the funeral of Emperor Hirohito. While in Japan, he faced a political setback at home when the Senate Armed Services Committee rejected his defense secretary-designate, John Tower. (See news analysis at right.)
While the controversy has not subsided, White House officials expressed hope that Bush's symbol-laden visit to China would refocus attention on his personal diplomacy during the five-day, three-nation trip. He will stop in South Korea for about five hours before flying home Monday.
In Beijing Saturday, as a hazy orange sun set late over Tiananmen Square, crowds gathered near the gate where Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949 and from which his photo still hangs. Bush, in an arranged event, stepped out of his Mercedes limousine and greeted a group of bicyclists. "I know this guy," he said, shaking hands with one man. "Good to see you all again," he said to the crowd, scores of whom held aloft small American flags.
Later, Bush exchanged gifts with Premier Li Peng. The president and his wife, Barbara, received bright green and red bicycles, and gave the premier a pair of Texas-made black cowboy boots with a Chinese flag on the left one and an American flag on the right boot. Li, who seemed puzzled by the gift, said, "When I go to the United States maybe I'll wear these boots. It's not a habit in China to have flags on the front." Bush conceded that it was not a custom in the United States, either.
Early Sunday, the Bushes attended a church that Bush called "our home away from home" in the heart of the Chinese capital. He told the Chongwenmen Protestant Church congregation that a strong faith in God helps people cope with seemingly insurmountable problems.
Bush was meeting later in the day with Cambodian resistance leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk. He also planned a series of meetings with other high-level Chinese officials.
In an unusual gesture, China has agreed to allow Bush to appear on its national state-run television for a brief speech and live interview Sunday evening, a broadcast that U.S. officials estimated could reach more than 100 million Chinese.
Later Sunday night, the Bushes were to host a Texas barbecue for Chinese leaders at the Sheraton Great Wall Hotel.
The first lady had a separate schedule for part of Sunday, visiting the childhood home of China's last emperor, Pu Yi, and touring the Forbidden City, the sprawling walled residence of the imperial rulers.
During last year's campaign, Bush often said his year in China made him appreciate the advantages of living in a democracy. Saturday night, in his return toast to President Yang Shangkun, Bush hailed China's "courageous reforms" in which it has introduced some market-oriented economics and sought to quell regional conflicts.
But the president also addressed indirectly "areas of disagreement" between Washington and Beijing, such as complaints over human rights abuses in Tibet. He said pointedly that the Sino-U.S. relationship "must be based on respect for the individual as well as the integrity of the states."
In written responses to questions from the official New China News Agency, Bush urged Beijing to address complaints of unfair trade practices from American businessmen, an issue that officials said he intended to raise privately with China's leaders.