Beginning with a handshake in Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese President Hu Jintao laid the groundwork for ongoing high-level talks to tackle three urgent problems: the global economy, climate change and energy, and security issues.
The close interrelationship between the Chinese and U.S. economies make economic talks a top priority. While in China today, Clinton sought to reassure the country that its enormous investment in U.S. Treasury notes is still sound. "I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in U.S. Treasuries. I think that is a well-grounded confidence," said Clinton.
The second problem facing both countries is the issue of climate change and energy. During her visit the Chinese showed the secretary a sophisticated gas-fired power plant today and both agreed on the need to develop more clean energy technology. China and the U.S. are the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
The third of these urgent problems is security. Secretary Clinton sought help on restarting the six-party nuclear talks with North Korea and looked for ways to work together on the deteriorating situation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. "It is essential that the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship," said Clinton.
While Clinton and her Chinese counterpart were praising their collaboration, human rights activists asked, At what cost?
China's abysmal human rights record was barely mentioned by Secretary Clinton today. Even before she traveled to China, she said that "pressing" on the issue of human rights, "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis." Activists are particularly outraged at those comments because this year marks the 20th anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators were killed during those protests by the Chinese military.
A local activist group said a number of dissidents have been put under house arrest since Clinton's arrival. But the secretary, who has been a long outspoken advocate for human rights, shrugged off the criticism today.