WASHINGTON – Chinese President Hu Jintao got an earful from the bipartisan leadership of Congress on Thursday about human rights, security concerns and economic relations, then courted U.S. business leaders and urged closer U.S.-China cooperation in all spheres.
Hu wrapped up the Washington portion of his U.S. visit by giving some ground on important issues to U.S. business interests, but behind-the-scenes negotiations failed to yield significant breakthroughs.
Hu left the nation’s capital with little doubt about where Congress stands on a range of Chinese policies.
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said a bipartisan group of congressional leaders pressed Hu for stronger protection of intellectual property and to curtail “the aggressive behavior of North Korea.”
“And finally,” Boehner said in a statement after their private meeting, “we 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 consequence of the ‘one child’ policy.”
The biggest confrontation appeared to come from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a statement, she said she handed Hu a letter as the meeting began outlining her “grave concerns regarding the Chinese regime’s deplorable human rights record” as well as its economic and security policies. As the meeting ended, she said she challenged him on multiple human rights offenses and was “astonished” when Hu denied that China has a forced-abortion policy.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she told Hu that U.S. lawmakers of both parties are concerned about China’s detention of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and his wife.
Later, Hu spoke before a U.S-China business group and called for closer U.S.-China cooperation on economic and security interests, and said that Beijing poses no military threat to any country, calling China’s military spending “defensive” in nature.
“Our two countries have never enjoyed such broad common interests and shouldered such broad common responsibilities as they do today,” Hu said in a speech before the U.S.-China Business Council, a nonprofit group of some 220 U.S. companies that do business in China.
The speech was long on calls for greater cooperation and short on details about issues of concern to U.S. business.
The Chinese apparently failed to convince the U.S. to ease up on export controls that would have let China import more of what’s called dual-use technologies – those with both civilian and military uses.
“I don’t think they got anything from us other than a very smoothly run summit, which looks very good back in China,” said Nicolas Lardy, a China expert who attended Hu’s speech.
The lack of substantive progress on China’s undervalued currency and a host of trade irritants eventually could lead to retaliatory action by Congress or future trade complaints to the World Trade Organization.
The Chinese delegation agreed in negotiations to audit government computers to determine whether they are using pirated software. During Hu’s visit, the Chinese government said it thinks that just one in 10 computers runs on legal software.
“They say one out of 10 is legal now, and a lot of that may be in government offices. I think they’ll step that up,” Lardy said.
In another sign of incremental progress, China agreed to revisit its policy on what it calls “indigenous innovation.” That’s a policy of favoring Chinese firms, especially when supplying the Chinese government.