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Hu wraps up U.S. trip

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Hu Jintao speaks at US-China luncheon
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese leader ends visit with a stop at a Chinese language and cultural center in Chicago
  • Hu Jintao told business leaders China is not pursuing an expansionist policy
  • Congressional leaders discussed human rights and economic issues with Hu
  • The session followed Hu's meeting Wednesday with President Obama

Washington (CNN) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped up his U.S. visit Friday with a trip to Chicago, the hometown of his counterpart, U.S. President Barack Obama.

He visited a Chinese-owned auto parts firm, a Chinese wind energy company and the Confucius Institute -- a Chinese language and cultural education center housed at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School.

Hu wrapped up his three-day visit to the U.S. capital Thursday, telling an audience of American business leaders that Beijing is seeking closer ties and greater trust with the United States on a range of issues.

He sought to assuage concerns about China's rising economic and military power, declaring that his country "will never seek hegemony or pursue an expansionist policy."

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The Chinese leader was unapologetic, however, about Beijing's position on the politically sensitive status of Tibet and Taiwan, calling it a matter of Chinese territorial integrity and a "core interest."

We are building "a socialist country under the rule of law," he asserted. He said relations between Washington and Beijing need to be governed by a belief in "equality" and "mutual respect."

Hu made his remarks at a luncheon hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the U.S.-China Business Council and other organizations.

Earlier Thursday, Hu traveled to Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders used the occasion to raise strong concerns about Beijing's commitment to human rights and economic issues such as the protection of intellectual property. He met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, among others. Neither man attended Wednesday night's White House state dinner in honor of the Chinese leader.

Earlier in the week, Reid called Hu a "dictator," a word that was later recanted by both the senator and his spokesman.

Boehner said that concerns about tensions on the Korean peninsula also were raised during Thursday's talks.

We had "a good meeting," Boehner said. "I would hope that the dialogue on all of these subjects would continue."

Disagreements over human rights -- including China's treatment of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo -- were "raised very strongly," according to Rep. Howard Berman of California, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I would not indicate there was great engagement ... other than a general recognition by the president of China that they have a ways to go," Berman told reporters.

On Wednesday, Hu met with Obama behind closed doors at the White House as top officials from both countries worked to address issues tied to the global economic crisis, international security, the environment and human rights.

Obama administration officials used the president's meeting with Hu to highlight economic progress between the two countries, announcing Beijing's approval of $45 billion in new contracts for U.S. companies to export goods to China. The contracts will support an estimated 235,000 American jobs, according to the White House.

The two leaders acknowledged continuing differences on human rights but pledged to keep working on the matter in a "frank and candid way," according to Obama.

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Human rights remains a touchy subject in China, as censors in the Asian nation made clear during Hu's visit by blacking out CNN's news broadcast each time the topic of human rights was mentioned. Even when Hu spoke about human rights, it was blacked out.

Footage of anti-China protesters near the White House was similarly blacked out.

Obama has nevertheless hailed Hu's visit as a chance to lay a foundation for the next 30 years of Sino-American relations.

Hu declared the relationship between the two powers to be one of "strategic significance and global influence."

During a news conference with reporters Wednesday, Obama said he had received a promise from Hu to establish a more "level playing field" for U.S. trade.

China's currency, Obama said, remains undervalued -- a key factor in America's trade imbalance with Beijing.

Hu conceded that key differences remain over economic policy, but he promised that Beijing would continue making attempts to resolve those differences.

CNN's Alan Silverleib, Ben Rooney, Tom Cohen and Aaron Smith contributed to this report.

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