Money Talks, Human Rights Walks

It's debtor's politics as Clinton sells U.S. T-bonds in China


BEIJING — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese officials have agreed to focus their governments' efforts on stabilizing the battered global economy and combating climate change, putting aside long-standing concerns about human rights.

Clinton is urging China to continue investing in United States Treasury bonds and said Sunday that country's continued investment in the U.S. is a recognition that the two countries depend on each other.

"I certainly do think that the Chinese government and central bank are making a smart decision by continuing to invest in treasury bonds," she said during an interview with the show "One on One." ''It's a safe investment. The United States has a well-deserved financial reputation."

In order to boost the economy, the U.S has to incur more debt, she said. "It would not be in China's interest if we were unable to get our economy moving," Clinton said. "So by continuing to support American Treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together. We are in the same boat and, thankfully, we are rowing in the same direction.

"Our economies are so intertwined, the Chinese know that to start exporting again to their biggest market, namely the United States the United States has to take some very drastic measures with this stimulus package, which means we have to incur more debt."

With the export-heavy Chinese economy reeling from the U.S. downturn, Clinton has sought in meetings with President Hu Jintao, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Premier Wen Jiabao to reassure Beijing that its massive holdings of U.S. Treasury notes and other government debt would remain a solid investment.

After a morning of talks during her inaugural visit to China as America's top diplomat, Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Saturday a regular U.S.-China dialogue on economic issues would be expanded to include troubling security issues.

"It is essential that the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship," Clinton told reporters at a joint news conference with Yang. She said that they also agreed on the need to develop clean energy technology that would use renewable sources and safely store the dirty emissions from burning coal.

Yang said China wants its foreign exchange reserves — the world's largest at $1.95 trillion — invested safely, with good value and liquidity. He said future decisions on using them would be based on those principles, but added that China wanted to continue work with the U.S.

"I want to emphasize here that the facts speak louder than words. The fact is that China and the United States have conducted good cooperation, and we are ready to continue to talk with the U.S. side," Yang said.

Beijing is the last, and some analysts say, the most important stop on Clinton's weeklong visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. She was to meet China's president and premier as well as tour a geothermal power plant before leaving Sunday.

Along with cooperating on the financial crisis and climate change, the United States wants China to step up efforts to address threats like Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs and tenuous security situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In addition, Clinton said the U.S. would like to see China play a positive role in Myanmar and Sudan, two countries which receive large Chinese investments but whose governments are at odds with Washington.

The emphasis on the global economy, climate change and security highlight the growing importance of U.S.-China relations, which have often soured over disagreements on human rights.

But ahead of the talks, Clinton signaled that China's poor human rights record, while still of deep concern to the United States, would not be at the top of her agenda.

She noted that both sides already knew the other's positions on the matter and said that human rights concerns "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises."

Her comments drew immediate fire from rights groups who said they sent the wrong message, undermined efforts to promote basic freedoms in China and squandered Washington's leverage with Beijing.

Asked to respond to the criticism, Clinton said "the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of our global foreign policy," noting in particular the issues of Tibet, religious freedom and freedom of expression.

"Human rights are part of our comprehensive agenda," she said.

But she added that the work of civic groups and private advocates that she has highlighted is "at least as important in building respect for and making progress on human rights" as government-to-government contact.

Yang appeared pleased by Clinton's reply, saying China was happy to engage on human rights with the United States but only "on the basis of equality and noninterference in each other's internal affairs."

Authorities in Beijing are facing a difficult year on the rights front as they try to muffle dissent ahead of politically sensitive anniversaries: 20 years since the crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and 50 since the failed Tibetan uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee into exile.

Beijing has already tightened security in Tibetan areas across western China, which erupted in anti-Chinese government protests last March.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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