Image: Chinese President Hu Jintao stands along
Saul Loeb  /  AFP - Getty Images
Chinese President Hu Jintao stands alongside former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after being introduced prior to speaking during a luncheon for corporate and policy leaders co-hosted by the U.S.-China Business Council and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in Washington on Thursday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/20/2011 10:02:04 PM ET 2011-01-21T03:02:04

Chinese President Hu Jintao denied his country is a military threat despite its arms buildup and pressed the U.S. on Thursday for closer cooperation between the global powers. He urged the United States to treat China "with respect and as equals" after encountering a fresh barrage of criticism from lawmakers over human rights.

In a luncheon speech to American business executives, Hu also urged the U.S. to continue to recognize China's sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet.

"China-U.S. relations will enjoy smooth and steady growth when the two countries handle well issues involving each other's major interests. Otherwise, our relations will suffer constant trouble or even tension," Hu said as he wrapped up his state visit to Washington.

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The Chinese leader headed next to Chicago where he was dining Thursday evening with retiring Mayor Richard Daley, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and business leaders. On Friday, he visits a Chinese center at a high school and a Chinese auto parts producer.

Hu, speaking to the Thursday dinner through a translator, praised the city's efforts to build relationships through language and business.

"Despite the great distance between Chicago and China, our hearts are linked together by friendship," he said. He earlier congratulated Daley on his 22 years in office, calling him "the most senior mayor in America."

"Our long range goal is to make Chicago the most China-friendly city in the U.S.," Daley said.

On Hill, U.S. lawmakers raise rights concerns
Earlier in the day, U.S. lawmakers say they complained about human rights abuses in China as they met with Hu, a day after the communist leader conceded that the country needed to improve its rights record.

Hu met with lawmakers and separately with House of Representatives and Senate leaders. On Wednesday he was welcomed at the White House on a high-profile state visit intended to ease mistrust between the two superpowers.

Beijing's Times Square boast has an identity problem

House Speaker John Boehner said participants at the House meeting with Hu "raised our strong, ongoing concerns with reports of human rights violations in China, including the denial of religious freedom and the use of coercive abortion" as a result of China's one-child policy.

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He said they also addressed the need for China to better protect intellectual property and curtail the aggressive behavior of North Korea.

Hu also met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who on Wednesday called Hu "a dictator" in an interview, although he later tried to recant the comment. During the state visit, several Republican lawmakers have also assailed the Chinese government's record on human rights, military expansion, financial strategy and weapons sales.

China media focus on pomp, ceremony
In China, state media lapped up the pomp and ceremony of Hu's visit but largely avoided mention of the rare joint news conference in Washington, where Hu answered questions on the yuan and human rights.

Newspapers splashed photos of Hu with Obama across their front pages, with headlines touting a "new chapter in relations" and "leaders hail symbiotic ties."

Online, China's popular chat rooms and blogs brimmed with pride after China agreed to buy $45 billion worth of U.S. goods, deals that seemed aimed at quelling anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States.

Video: China human rights loom at state dinner (on this page)

"You capitalist-minded Obama, you're not that great!" said a blogger on Sina Microblog, the Chinese version of Twitter. "It's our socialist-minded Boss Hu who is wealthy! As a Chinese, I feel immense pride!"

"Hu's visit injects new blood into the tug-of-war between China and the U.S.," wrote one poster on the tianya.cn portal. "China is showing its strength to the whole world."

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Human rights coverage censored
Beijing residents said BBC and CNN television broadcasts of the summit went blank when the topic switched to human rights and anti-Chinese protesters, though access to foreign news channels is restricted to upscale hotels and apartment complexes.

It appeared that one Chinese censor was endeavoring to prevent pictures of imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo in a BBC World news report about Hu's visit from being shown, and in doing so also blocked part of Hu's comments about human rights, according to a Western journalist. However, Hu's remarks were allowed to be broadcast on other channels.

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 America, contributing to high U.S. unemployment.

Beijing's Times Square boast has an identity problem

Since 2005, lawmakers have threatened legislation that would punish Chinese goods with duties to this, but they have yet to pass a law.

So far China has resisted demands for faster appreciation of the yuan, a move that could help lower China's trade surplus with the United States, which Washington puts at $270 billion.

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Obama looked to assure Americans that they should not fear China's economic rise as he used Hu's visit to announce job-creating business deals worth $45 billion and more than 200,000 jobs to U.S. companies.

Hu sought to address another big American concern Wednesday as he conceded that "a lot still needs to be done" to improve China's record on human rights.

Five years after his last visit to the White House, which was marred by protocol blunders, Hu was feted this time with the full pomp of a state visit including a lavish dinner with some of Washington's most powerful figures and other luminaries.

Msnbc.com staff, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: China human rights loom at state dinner

  1. Transcript of: China human rights loom at state dinner

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Chinese President Hu Jintao makes his way to Capitol Hill today following a star-studded state dinner at the White House . We've got NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joining us now with details. Hey, Andrea , good morning.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good morning, Ann. On a day capped by that glittering state dinner with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton , both attending, President Obama spoke of cooperation and friendly competition between the United States and China , all aimed at ironing out problems in a very complicated relationship. The White House spared no detail to welcome China 's leader. From the first lady, resplendent in red, a color traditionally thought to bring good luck in China , to the star-studded guest list. Foreign policy path-breakers from both parties, bankers, business leaders, and fashion icons. Yo-Yo Ma , Barbra Streisand with husband James Brolin . Her connection to China ?

    Ms. BARBRA STREISAND: I worked in a Chinese restaurant .

    MITCHELL: Jackie Chan, Michelle Kwan . But other than New Jersey 's governor, very few Republican politicians.

    Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, it just makes me unique once again.

    MITCHELL: The all-American menu, a five-star version of surf and turf, apple pie and ice cream. And the best of American jazz. Hospitality that even led to a breakthrough on panda diplomacy , extending China 's loan of Washington 's favorite Chinese imports.

    President BARACK OBAMA: Our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.

    MITCHELL: Still, all the pomp and circumstance and personal diplomacy couldn't disguise fundamental disagreements over business and human rights .

    Pres. OBAMA: We come from very different cultures and with very different histories. We have some core views as Americans about the universality of certain rights.

    MITCHELL: President Hu offered a rare public admission.

    President HU JINTAO: The lock still needs to be down in China in terms of human rights .

    MITCHELL: And human rights advocate Kenneth Roth was invited to dinner.

    Mr. KENNETH ROTH (Human Rights Watch): I take the reason that I was invited as really a statement to President Hu .

    MITCHELL: None of that satisfied protesters or Congressional critics.

    Representative CHRIS SMITH (Republican, New Jersey): Let's not forget, China is the most egregious human rights violator in the world.

    MITCHELL: Most of the business of the summit was business. The president and top CEOs complained about China 's rampant piracy of software and movies, barriers to markets and currency manipulation. The two countries did announce $45 billion in new business deals, including the sale of 200 Boeing jets. The White House said all this would potentially produce 235,000 new American jobs .

    Pres. OBAMA: We want to sell you all kinds of stuff. We want to sell you planes, we want to sell you cars, we want to sell you software.

    MITCHELL: US officials said that China did make some concessions, lowering some trade barriers or at least promising to. But today the Chinese leader could find a tougher reception on Capitol Hill . He'll be meeting with the Speaker of the House John Boehner and with Senate leaders from both parties who chose not to attend the state dinner . Ann :

    CURRY: All right, Andrea , thank you, so much.

Explainer: Obama, Hu's toasts at White House state dinner

  • Image: President Barack Obama toasts with Chinese President Hu Jintao at a state dinner Wednesday at the White House
    Jim Young  /  Reuters
    President Barack Obama toasts with Chinese President Hu Jintao at a state dinner Wednesday at the White House.

    President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao offered toasts featuring the promises of better relations all around, and Obama used the moment to highlight an agreement that will ensure the beloved giant pandas from China remain at the Smithsonian National Zoo for another five years. Here is the text of what each said.

  • President Barack Obama

    Image: President Barack Obama offers a toast during a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao
    Alex Wong  /  Getty Images
    President Barack Obama offeres a toast during a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House on Wednesday.

    Good evening, everybody. Please have a seat. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. And thank you for joining us as we host President Hu and the Chinese delegation, and as we pay tribute to the bonds between two great nations and two proud peoples.

    There are too many distinguished guests to mention all of you tonight. But I do want to acknowledge a few who have championed relations between our nations: First of all, President Jimmy Carter and his wonderful wife Rosalynn Carter are here. As well as President Bill Clinton and my outstanding Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

    President Hu, we have met today in a spirit of mutual respect: the United States — the oldest democracy in the world, and China — one of the oldest civilizations in the world. And while it's easy to focus on our differences of culture and perspective, let us never forget the values that our people share: A reverence for family; the belief that, with education and hard work and with sacrifice, the future is what we make it; and most of all, the desire to give our children a better life.

    Let's also never forget that throughout our history our people have worked together for mutual progress. We've traded together for more than 200 years. We stood together in the Second World War. Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans have helped to build America, including many who join us here tonight.

    The Chinese and American people work together and create new opportunities together every single day. Mr. President, today we've shown that our governments can work together as well, for our mutual benefit. And that includes this bit of news -- under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.

    I'm told that there is a Chinese proverb that says: If you want one year of prosperity, then grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, then grow trees. But if you want 100 years of prosperity, then you grow people.

    And so I propose a toast — to our people, the citizens of the People's Republic of China and the United States of America. May they grow together in friendship. May they prosper together in peace. And may they realize their dream of the future for themselves, for their children, and for their grandchildren.

    Ganbei.

  • Chinese President Hu Jintao

    Image: Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House state dinner on Wednesday
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Chinese President Hu Jintao offers a toast Wednesday at a state dinner on Wednesday in the White House.

    President Obama and Mrs. Obama, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good evening. I am delighted to once again come to the United States and pay a state visit at the invitation of President Obama.

    Since setting foot on this beautiful land, we have received the gracious hospitality of the U.S. government and people. This evening President Obama is hosting this welcoming dinner for us, and has just made warm remarks. On behalf of my colleagues and in my own name, I want to express heartfelt thanks to President and Mrs. Obama and other American friends present today.

    I also wish to convey through you the best wishes of the Chinese people to the friendly American people and extend cordial greetings to people from various sectors of the United States who have given care and support to the growth of U.S.-China relations.

    The purpose of my visit is to increase mutual trust, enhance friendship, deepen cooperation and advance the positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-U.S. relationship for the 21st century.

    In recent years, particularly over the past two years since President Obama took office, China-U.S. relations have made strong headway, thanks to the joint efforts of both sides.

    We have increased exchanges in cooperation in a wide range of areas, maintained close communication and coordination on major international and regional issues, and played a positive role in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region and the whole world.

    Under the current circumstances, our two countries share broader common interests, show their bigger common responsibilities, and face more severe common challenges than at any time in history. As a result, it is more important than ever for us to maintain the long-term, sound and steady growth of our bilateral relations. This is the reality we face, and it should be recognized by both sides.

    This morning President Obama and I had an in-depth exchange of views on China-U.S. relations and international and regional issues of common interest. And we reached important agreement. We agreed that our two countries should increase contacts at the top and other levels, strengthen strategic mutual trust through dialogue and communication, intensify exchanges and cooperation in all fields, and step up communication and coordination on international and regional issues.

    We agreed that the two countries should respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and the development interests, properly handle differences and frictions, and work together to build a China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

    China-U.S. relations have traveled a extraordinary journey in the past 32 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties. A review of the history of our relations shows that we have far more common interests than differences, and cooperation for mutual benefit as always being the mainstream of our relations. This has reinforced our confidence in further pushing forward our relationship.

    Today both China and the United States are confronted with the arduous task of sustaining steady economic growth and achieving economic transformation. And we both need to tackle the various challenges brought by economic globalization. This has added to our need and desire to enhance cooperation.

    We should pursue our relations with a stronger conviction, a broader vision and more proactive approach. We need to take solid steps and make pioneering efforts to fully tap the potential of cooperation and strive for new progress in China-U.S. relations.

    I am confident that with joint efforts, a China-U.S. cooperative partnership will yield bountiful fruits for the greater benefit of our people, and make new and bigger contribution to the noble cause of world peace and development.

    Now I'd like to propose a toast — to the health of President and Mrs. Obama; to the health of all friends present here; to the stronger friendship between the people of China and the United States; and to the steady growth of China-U.S. relations.

    Cheers.

Interactive: U.S.-China relations

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