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Obama arrives in China for maiden visit

November 17, 2009

November 15, 2009

Obama touched down in China's financial hub after
a flight from Singapore, where he and other
Asia-Pacific leaders pledged to revamp the world
economy but scuppered hopes that key climate
change talks next month would end in a pact.

Trade tensions, the value of the Chinese yuan and
efforts to combat global warming are some of the
many issues expected to come up in Obama's talks
this week with Chinese President Hu Jintao,
Premier Wen Jiabao and other officials.

Obama, in a wide-ranging speech on his policy
towards Asia in Tokyo on Saturday, said the
United States did not seek to "contain" China and
in fact welcomed its rising political and economic clout.

"The United States does not seek to contain
China, nor does a deeper relationship with China
mean a weakening of our bilateral alliances," Obama said.

"On the contrary, the rise of a strong,
prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations."

But Obama -- whose stop in China is the longest
leg of his nine-day Asian tour -- and Hu will
nevertheless face a number of thorny issues when
they sit down for talks on Tuesday in Beijing.

On trade, Washington has piqued China's ire in
recent months by imposing tariffs on Chinese
tyres and preliminary duties on some steel
products -- moves which Beijing has slammed as
protectionist and as impeding world recovery.

The US leader is expected to counter by again
urging China to reconsider the value of the yuan,
which has been effectively pegged to the dollar
since July 2008, when the global crisis hit key
export markets for Chinese-made goods.

Washington has stopped short of calling China a
currency manipulator, but has urged Beijing to
relax its exchange rate regime, hinting that it
keeps the value of the yuan artificially low to boost exports.

Environmental activists had held out high hopes
that Obama and Hu, whose countries are the
world's top two emitters of greenhouse gases,
would reach some kind of climate change deal
before global talks in Copenhagen next month.

But that seemed unlikely after Asia-Pacific
leaders conceded in Singapore that they would not
reach a binding pact in the Danish capital,
instead saying they were likely to back a
political statement of intent in December.

Obama, criticised at home for not meeting the
Dalai Lama during the exiled Tibetan spiritual
leader's recent visit to Washington, has vowed to
raise human rights issues with Beijing, but said
he would do it without "rancour".

He and Hu were also expected to discuss the
controversial nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran.

Beyond the tough political issues, the visit --
which begins in earnest on Monday when Obama
meets Shanghai officials and holds a town
hall-style meeting with young people before
heading to Beijing -- will be heavy on symbolism.

China is organising a lavish state dinner for
Obama, and the US leader will visit the Forbidden
City in Beijing and the Great Wall.

Obama enjoys great popularity in China. On
Sunday, visitors to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
in Shanghai queued up to take photos of their
loved ones with a replica of the US leader ahead
of his arrival in the eastern city.

"I want to encourage my son to learn from him and
his fighting spirit to reach his goal," said
32-year-old office worker Zhang Yan, who brought
her seven-year-old to the museum.

"Obama is probably the most eloquent leader we have ever known."
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