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Bush: 'May God bless the Christians of China'

President attends government-sanctioned church

President Bush greets Rev. Liu Hongling at Gangwashi Church in Beijing on Sunday.


Beijing (China)
George W. Bush
White House

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- President Bush attended a legally sanctioned church Sunday in Beijing before scheduled talks on religious freedom with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Bush also planned to discuss trade, intellectual property rights and support for the U.S. push to spread democracy in nations such as Iraq.

During his visit to the Gangwashi Church -- one of five Protestant churches sanctioned by the government -- Bush signed a guest book with the words: "May God bless the Christians of China." With her signature Laura Bush, who's accompanying her husband, added, "with love and respect." (Watch Bush after attending officially recognized church in Beijing -- 1:36)

After services, the U.S. president thanked the church pastor.

"It wasn't all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society," Bush said. "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths."

In its 2005 report on religious freedom, the U.S. State Department said China's "respect for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience remained poor, especially for many unregistered religious groups and spiritual movements," which "continued to experience varying degrees of official interference and harassment."

The U.S. president arrived in the capital Saturday night on the latest leg of his tour of Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia.

Bush is to travel from China to Mongolia on Sunday night.

Bush offered a glimpse of his trade concerns in his weekly radio address Saturday.

"Access to American markets has played an important role in China's economic development," Bush said in the recorded message. "And China needs to provide a level playing field for American farmers and businesses seeking access to China's market."

"The United States supported China's membership in the World Trade Organization because we believe that the cause of free and fair trade is advanced, if China plays by the same global rules as everyone else."

Bush said Hu agreed earlier this year to bring more balance to U.S.-China trade, protect intellectual property rights and implement a flexible market-based exchange system for its currency. China has a large trade surplus with the United States.

"China needs to take action to ensure these goals are fully implemented," Bush said.

There was good news for the president when he landed in Beijing. He was told that China had agreed to buy 70 of Boeing Co.'s 737 planes.

Throughout his trip, Bush has been dogged by congressional debate over the U.S. military deployment in Iraq.

House GOP leaders Friday tried to force Democrats to take a stand on a quick exit from Iraq by bringing up a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. The resolution failed. (Full story)

"So long as I'm the commander-in-chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground," Bush told U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in South Korea on Saturday. (Full story)

Next, the president will travel to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, to meet with President Nambaryn Enkhbayar.

Bush's visit there will be the first trip of a sitting U.S. president to Mongolia. Mongolia has deployed troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush is expected to thank Mongolian leaders for their contribution to the war on terror.

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