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Human rights, yuan focus of U.S., China talks next week

By Jo Ling Kent, CNN
Barack Obama and Hu Jintao meet in the Oval Office at the White House on January 19, 2011.
Barack Obama and Hu Jintao meet in the Oval Office at the White House on January 19, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The talks will start Sunday evening in Washington
  • They will be the third in a series of dialogues initiated by Obama
  • China still faces U.S. pressure to allow the yuan to appreciate at a faster pace
  • Tensions run high in disputes over China's human rights record
RELATED TOPICS
  • United States
  • China

Beijing (CNN) -- Top officials from the United States and China will meet next week in Washington with hopes of improving relations amid rising bilateral tensions on human rights and China's currency.

This will be the third in a series of dialogues initiated by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009.

At a news briefing in Washington on Thursday, the U.S. said it saw "promising shifts" in China's economic policy since the initial meeting, including a 5% increase in the value of its yuan, said David Loevinger, the Treasury's senior coordinator for China affairs.

However, China still faces U.S. pressure to allow the yuan to appreciate at a faster pace.

"To be frank, we have different views that make discussion necessary," vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said in In Beijing. "But we have agreement on the direction of reform of the renminbi."

The talks will start Sunday evening with a small dinner at Blair House, according to the State Department.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan. For the first time, this year's talks will include senior military representatives from Beijing and the Pentagon.

The strategic part of the dialogue will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and State Councilor Dai Bingguo while the economic talks will be led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithnerand Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

The Chinese foreign ministry announced Friday that senior Chinese officials will also meet with President Barack Obama during the visit and will conclude with a joint news conference.

"I think we all recognize how important it is that these discussions proceed smoothly and that there is a candid and clear set of interactions between our two sides to avoid problems of misunderstanding and miscalculation," said Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

"I believe this strategic and economic dialogue will contribute to building strategy and mutual trust, and promote cooperation economically and address issues that may arise in the future," Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told reporters in Beijing.

Tensions still run high in disputes over China's human rights record, as the government carries out its harshest crackdown in years that has led to detention and forced disappearances of lawyers, activists and religious groups following an anonymous call on the Internet for "Jasmine" revolutions in February.

The U.S. and China concluded bilateral human rights talks last week in Beijing with no tangible results.

"We want to approach this critical matter from a principled and consistent approach," Campbell said.

"We raise human rights issues, not just generally but specifically, specific cases. We ask our Chinese interlocutors for explanations about disappearances, about arrests and legal procedures which we feel are either lacking or inappropriate."

China disagreed, responding that Americans have placed too much emphasis on individual activists such as detained artist Ai Weiwei, lawyer Gao Zhisheng and imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

"I think it is advisable for the United States to pay more attention to the development of China in terms of human rights rather than being preoccupied with individual cases," Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said.

"We also hope that the outside world, when observing China's human rights progress, will adopt a matter-of-fact approach or, to borrow an analogy, have some sunlight in their approach."

Chinese officials also said the talks will focus on major economic issues including trade, resuming talks with North Korea, counter-terrorism cooperation, climate change, intellectual property and innovation.

 
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