Clinton urges China to stand by US economy

Mon, Feb 23, 2009, 00:00

US SECRETARY of state Hillary Clinton ended her visit to China yesterday by attending services at a state-sanctioned church, having a conversation with women’s rights activists and taking part in a brief web chat. As to the substance of the last and possibly most important leg of her Asian visit, talks with Chinese leaders focused on economic and climate change co-operation rather than on thornier issues such as differences on human rights.

Her focus was firmly on the global economy, climate change and security, highlighting the growing importance of US-China relations, while human rights dialogue was kept off the main agenda, to the dismay of rights groups.

The decision to play down human rights will have pleased Mrs Clinton’s hosts in a year of sensitive anniversaries – it is one year since the Tibetan anti-Chinese riots, 20 years since the crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and 50 years since the failed Tibetan uprising that forced the Dalai Lama into exile.

Mrs Clinton said there had been candid talks about human rights behind closed doors.

There were lighter moments too. State councillor Dai Binggao exclaimed when he met America’s most senior diplomat: “You look younger and more beautiful than you look on TV!”

“We’ll get along very well,” she replied, blushing.

Mrs Clinton is well known in China. She visited as US first lady, and remains popular despite her strident criticism of the country in the past. Mrs Clinton said Washington and Beijing needed to work together if the world was to rebound from the financial crisis and she urged her hosts to keep investing in America.

Export-reliant China is facing its own economic crisis and Mrs Clinton has sought to reassure Beijing and ask it to hold on to its massive holdings of US treasury bills and other government debt, and to trust in Washington’s ability to implement a stimulus package to take the US out of recession.

She said the two economies are interlinked, and China needed the US to start improving so it could start exporting there again soon.

She drove home this message during meetings with Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao, premier Wen Jiabao and foreign minister Yang Jiechi.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that we will see global recovery without Chinese and American co-operation and leadership,” she said in a talk-show interview.

Mr Yang’s response was positive. He said China wanted to see its foreign exchange reserves – the world’s largest at $1.95 trillion – invested safely and to continue working with the United States.

Having visited Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul and Beijing over the last week, Mrs Clinton was also hoping to cement China’s support on dealing with the threats from nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea, and for assistance in monitoring the security situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US and China are the world’s two biggest polluters and Mrs Clinton said she and Chinese officials had agreed to develop clean-energy technology that would use renewable sources and safely store the emissions from burning coal.

The secretary of state met women’s rights advocates at the US embassy, including the 82-year-old doctor, Gao Yaojie, who exposed official complicity in the spread of Aids in central China at unsanitary, often state-run clinics.

Mrs Clinton also attended a state-approved church in the city’s Haidian district before leaving for Washington.