With Vice President Al Gore on hand to celebrate, China signed lucrative deals Tuesday with Boeing and General Motors and agreed to allow the United States to maintain its Hong Kong consulate when the colony reverts to Chinese rule.
In an agreement worth $685 million to Seattle-based Boeing Corp., China’s civil aviation authority arranged to purchase five of the aerospace giant’s 777-200 series passenger jets.
And General Motors Corp. said it was launching a $1.3 billion joint venture with a Chinese automaker to manufacture 100,000 Buick Regal and Century sedans a year in China.
Clinton administration officials traveling with Gore hailed the agreements as evidence that China was becoming a more reliable partner - and as proof that the policy of engagement was bearing fruit.
Last spring, in a blow to Boeing, China ordered $1.5 billion in planes from Airbus Industrie of Europe, delayed a $4 billion aircraft deal with Boeing and other companies and chose a consortium led by British Aerospace and Aerospatiale of France as partners to build a 100-seat jetliner.
The trade announcements came as Gore opened two days of talks with China’s leaders. It marked the highest-level U.S. visit in eight years - since then-President George Bush was here four months before the 1989 rackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
Premier Li Peng was attending the signing ceremonies with Gore, and the two were meeting throughout the day. On Wednesday, Gore was meeting with President Jiang Zemin to provide a framework for Jiang’s state visit to Washington this fall.
Just inside the Great Hall of the People on the edge of Tiananmen Square, Li greeted Gore with a handshake and they stood stiffly on a platform while a military band played the Chinese and U.S. national anthems.
Gore’s agenda was crowded with areas of friction - disputes over human rights and U.S. access to Chinese markets and American displeasure with China’s sales of missile technology and weapons to nations the United States considers unfriendly.
But he said his overriding mission was to demonstrate the U.S.-Chinese relationship was maturing.