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Clinton urges China to sustain U.S. economic support

We're all in this together, the secretary of State tells Beijing as she makes a plea for the continued purchase U.S. government bonds.

February 23, 2009|Paul Richter

BEIJING — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday entreated the Chinese to continue their economic support for the United States, saying, "We are truly going to rise and fall together."

Closing her maiden overseas trip as chief diplomat, Clinton urged Beijing to keep buying U.S. government bonds despite their declining value. And she defended the Obama administration's economic stimulus spending package, saying the added debt load, though "drastic," would benefit China.

Her plea was a reminder of the shifting balance of power between the longtime Western superpower and the Asian giant that finances its consumer and government spending with $1.9 trillion in foreign currency reserves.

"We are in the same boat," she said. "Thankfully, we are rowing in the same direction, toward landfall."

In an interview with Yang Lin of Shanghai-based Dragon TV, Clinton said the Chinese understand that the United States "has to take some drastic measures" with the stimulus package to restore American spending, which in turn will help revive Chinese exports.

By continuing to buy U.S. Treasury bonds, "the Chinese are recognizing our interconnections," she said. She said that the purchases were a "very smart decision" because the bonds are safe and stable.

During her presidential campaign, Clinton had contended that reliance on Chinese bond purchases was making the U.S. dangerously dependent. She said China's position as America's "banker" was eroding the United States' leverage with Beijing.

But now, as a senior U.S. official, Clinton was recognizing a difficult reality, and pleading with China to continue the status quo.

On Saturday, when the subject of Chinese bond purchases came up during a joint news conference with Clinton, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stopped short of promising to continue the purchases. He said instead, as Chinese officials have before, that his government would continue to buy the bonds if they continued to offer the best combination of value, low risk and liquidity.

Clinton made Asia the destination of her weeklong trip because of her interest in developing what she said she hoped would be a more active partnership on environmental, security and economic issues. The Chinese agreed in meetings Saturday to new high-level conversations, although important details remain to be sorted out.

Clinton took care to avoid any meetings with high-profile dissidents that would have provoked the Chinese government, but she made clear her support for human rights Sunday in a meeting with a group of 22 women's rights advocates.

"In no society are women treated equally yet," she said, adding that that included American society.

The women told stories about their effort to advance women's status, improve their health and reduce domestic violence.

Although they said women in China faced many obstacles, they also said that they had made headway in pushing the government.

Chen Mingxia, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who founded an organization to work against domestic violence, said, "We've all experienced a lot of progress in our work."

Several of the women had met Clinton on her two earlier trips to China and greeted her as an old friend.

Xie Lihua, founder of the Cultural Development Center for Rural Women and a related magazine, told how she had tried to memorize the English phrase "I hope you win" to use in their last meeting, during Clinton's presidential campaign.

"I couldn't get it out," she said. "I felt so neglectful. If I had gotten it out, you probably would have won."

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paul.richter@latimes.com

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