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Hu Bids Farewell to One Washington, Heads for the Other

Chinese leader talks up trade with Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft. Next clime may be chillier.

April 20, 2006|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

MUKILTEO, Washington — Chinese President Hu Jintao finished up a two-day visit Wednesday to the one state in the U.S. that carries a trade surplus with his country, pointedly talking up the billions of dollars China will spend in coming years on Boeing airplanes, Microsoft software and even Starbucks coffee, all Washington state products.

But after basking in a mutual-admiration fest with Seattle moguls such as Microsoft's Bill Gates and Starbucks' Howard Schultz, Hu headed to the other Washington, where he is unlikely to receive quite so effusive a welcome from the Bush administration.

Instead, Presidents Hu and Bush are expected to lock horns over a variety of nettlesome issues between their two superpower nations, including the record $202-billion U.S. trade deficit with China, Beijing's currency policies and the growing demand for petroleum in the world's most populous nation.

In a speech here at Boeing's Future of Flight Aviation Center, Hu said his country was committed to fair trade policies and to cracking down on piracy of software and Hollywood movies, another contentious issue between the United States and China.

The way to solve such issues, he said, is to expand opportunities for each country to invest in the other.

"Strong business ties meet the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples and will continue to play an important role in stabilizing our relations," Hu said through an interpreter.

He spoke here after touring the Boeing production facility in nearby Everett that manufactures the 747 jumbo jet. Hu noted that Chinese airlines were expected to buy as many as 2,000 planes in the next 20 years, many of which would be Boeing-built.

"Boeing's cooperation with China is a living example of the mutually beneficial cooperation and win-win outcome that China and the United States have achieved from trade with each other," the Chinese leader said.

"This clearly points to a bright tomorrow for future cooperation between Boeing and China."

Though greeted with broad applause at the Boeing and Microsoft offices, Hu's visit also drew several hundred protesters, whose banners and chants called variously for China to get out of Tibet, release political prisoners, recognize Taiwan's independence and stop persecuting Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement.

At the Boeing museum, Hu was introduced by Gates, whose corporation has been embroiled in controversy over whether it helps expand freedom of information in China or undercuts it by acceding to the regime's restrictions on the Internet.

In his introduction, the Microsoft chairman said he wanted to "protect the privacy and security of Internet users, and promote the exchange of ideas, while respecting legitimate government considerations."

Hu made no mention of Beijing's attempts to control Internet content, describing instead the Chinese people's favorable view of iconic Seattle products.

"Microsoft and Boeing are household names in my country, and Starbucks coffee shops have mushroomed in China's cities," Hu said in remarks Tuesday night during a dinner at Gates' house.

"If I were not serving in this office," he added, with Starbucks chief Schultz nearby, "I would certainly prefer to go into one of the coffee shops run by Starbucks."

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