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China's Jiang Plans U.S. Trip With L.A. Stop

September 23, 1997|JIM MANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Chinese President Jiang Zemin plans to visit seven U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, this fall in the first trip to this country by the leader of the world's most populous nation in nearly two decades, according to U.S. officials.

The itinerary for Jiang's state visit in late October and early November, worked out recently by American and Chinese officials, calls for him to stop in Honolulu, Williamsburg, Va., Washington, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and Los Angeles.

The trip through this country will be the first of its kind since Deng Xiaoping came to the United States in 1979, shortly after establishing diplomatic relations with the United States and consolidating his effective control over the Chinese Communist Party. Deng did not stop in Los Angeles.

Jiang's one-day Los Angeles stay will be aimed at least in part at underscoring China's commercial importance to the United States. U.S. officials said the Chinese leader will visit Hughes Space & Communications in El Segundo, which makes satellites exported for launch on Chinese rockets.

American officials are also hoping that Jiang will sign an agreement to purchase more Boeing commercial airplanes and thus provide the occasion for a visit to the Douglas Aircraft factory in Long Beach, which is now owned by Boeing.

Chinese officials have worried about the possibility that during his time in the United States, Jiang could face demonstrations from pro-democracy activists, American labor unions or supporters of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

Some Americans privately cautioned Chinese officials against going to Boston, with its heavy concentration of college students, because of potential demonstrations there. But Chinese officials decided that Jiang should include a stop in Boston, where he is expected to speak at Harvard University.

During the congress of the Chinese Communist Party that ended in Beijing last week, Jiang emerged as China's undisputed leader. He succeeded in ousting a key rival, Qiao Shi, from top positions in the party.

Jiang will visit Washington on Oct. 28 and 29 for talks with President Clinton and other officials. Administration officials hope that the trip will pave the way both for better ties with Beijing and for greater acceptance by the American public of such a relationship.

Over the last few weeks, U.S. and Chinese officials have been talking about what cities Jiang should visit.

U.S. officials had been encouraging the idea of a stop in some Midwestern city, such as Minneapolis or Chicago, to highlight the importance of China to the American heartland. But in the last few days, Chinese officials rejected that idea. "They substituted Los Angeles for Chicago," said one American official.

One factor was apparently a feeling among Jiang and other Chinese officials that he should stop on the West Coast.

During an earlier trip to the United States in November 1993 (while Deng was still alive), Jiang visited San Francisco and Seattle. Los Angeles therefore seemed like the most logical place for a visit this time, according to those familiar with the Chinese government.

No exact date has been given for the Los Angeles stop but it is expected about Nov. 1.

Hughes has emerged over the last decade as a strong supporter of close commercial ties between the United States and China.

In 1993, the new Clinton administration imposed sanctions that barred the sale of satellites to China because of the Asian giant's transfer of missile components to Pakistan. In response, Hughes Chairman C. Michael Armstrong sent a letter to Clinton complaining about the harmful impact of the sanctions.

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"It escapes me what effect our laying off 4,000 to 5,000 more people in California and shifting the export business to Europe has on the Chinese," Armstrong said in a public speech at the time. The administration subsequently opened the way for the sale of the satellites.

During his 1979 visit, Deng campaigned through the United States almost in the fashion of an American politician. He was photographed waving a 10-gallon hat at a Texas rodeo, staring up at the Harlem Globetrotters in Washington and taking the controls of a space-shuttle simulator at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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