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Hu visit a missed opportunity on trade?

U.S. critics of China’s trade policies said President Bush missed a chance to pressure Chinese President Hu Jintao on how it handles its currency.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped up his four-day U.S. tour Friday with a visit to Yale University, where he sought to quell fears about the international effects of his country’s booming economy and pledged continued cooperation with the United States.

Several blocks away, hundreds of protesters on the City Green waved signs and shouted anti-communist and anti-government slogans in Chinese.

“When you get within 5,000 yards of one of these bigwigs, I think it’s your responsibility as a human being to try and tell them something,” said freshman Edwin Everhart, 19, coordinator of Amnesty International at Yale.

Pro-government demonstrators also waved signs, some reading: “Warmly Welcome Chairman Hu Jintao to the United States” and “Bring China-U.S. relations closer.”

Reporter thrown out
Yale President Richard Levin met privately Friday morning with Hu, but like the Chinese leader’s earlier welcome in Washington, not everything went as planned.

A CNN reporter was thrown out of the welcoming ceremony after he shouted a question about whether Hu had seen the protesters gathered on the city green, school officials said. Yale spokeswoman Helene Kalsky said the reporter was thrown out because he was invited “to cover an event, not to hold a press conference.”

Hu answered two questions from the crowd during his speech, both of which had been submitted in advance. He was asked whether China was concerned that limiting political freedom would cause social unrest that could undermine the economic growth.

He said China is committed to democracy.

“China’s political system suits its economic development,” Hu said.

Hu opened his speech by quipping “if time could go back several decades I would really like to be a student of Yale, just like you.”

Yale, President Bush’s alma mater, has long had ties to China. In the 1800s, it was the first U.S. university to graduate a Chinese student, and it now has more than 80 academic collaborations with Chinese institutions and offers 26 study sites in China.

Little progress in Bush-Hu talks
Hu met with Bush in Washington on Thursday, and the two leaders said it was a productive summit meeting.

The two leaders pledged cooperation but did not break new ground on resolving the economic issues, including the big U.S. trade deficit with China.

U.S. critics of China’s trade policies were unimpressed.

“The president failed to make any significant progress in talks with his Chinese counterpart,” complained Kevin Kearns, the president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents around 1,500 small and medium-sized manufacturing companies.

The welcoming ceremony in Washington earlier Thursday was marred by a security breach when a Falun Gong backer screamed at the Chinese president about persecution of the group. The woman had obtained a temporary White House pass, and Bush later apologized.

Hu also visited Washington state and officials of Microsoft Corp. and Boeing Co. in an effort to emphasize support for expanded U.S. exports to China.

Dueling demonstrations
Many American manufacturers contend that the Chinese yuan is undervalued by as much as 40 percent, making Chinese products cheaper for American consumers and American goods more expensive in China.

In New Haven, police estimated that at least 1,000 people gathered on the City Green.

“Falun Dafa is good!” some shouted, using another name for Falun Gong. “Down with Jiang Zemin! Down with Hu Jintao! Resolutely oppose the Communist Party!”

Everhart, of Chapel Hill, N.C., wore a “Free China” headband. “I’m here because I’m against the torture, the death penalty and nuclear weapons,” he said.

The pro-government demonstrators waved scarlet signs written in Chinese.

“We are here to show our love to our country and show our enthusiasm to our president’s visit to Yale university,” said Zhou Jun, a Yale graduate student and Chinese citizen.