China To Bush: We Can Work It Out

U.S. President George W. Bush, left, and Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao smile during a guard of honor ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005. Bush arrived Saturday evening in the Chinese capital. (AP Photo/Takanori Sekine, Pool) AP

President Hu Jintao on Sunday promised President Bush that China will take steps to reduce its huge trade surplus with the United States and said the two countries can deal with their problems.

Hu said he also told Mr. Bush that China was willing to step up protection for intellectual property rights.

"The two sides also expressed their willingness to join hands together to gradually achieve a balance of trade between China and the United States," Hu said through a translator. "The frictions and problems that may arise in this rapid development of the two-way trade may be properly addressed through consultations."

There appeared to be no breakthroughs about U.S. demands for currency reforms in China and no concrete announcement about how China would cut its trade surplus with the United States, on track to hit $200 billion this year.

And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed dismay over a crackdown on dissidents before Bush arrived. She said the U.S. side would raise the issue "quite vociferously with the Chinese government to both get a clarification and to make clear that we believe open societies allow people to express themselves."

She also expressed disappointment with China's response to a U.S. request in September for action on specific human rights cases.

"We've certainly not seen the progress that we would expect, and I think we will have to keep working on it," she said. "But obviously this is a long conversation and a long haul."

Mr. Bush and Hu sought to ease tensions Sunday over China's rapid rise, grappling with disputes over trade, human rights and religious freedom and trying to emphasize common ground about North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The two leaders met at the Great Hall of the People, the sprawling government building on the edge of Tiananmen Square.

Trying to send a message to China's leaders, Mr. Bush opened the day by attending church services, taking a front-row seat with his wife, Laura, at Gangwashi Church, one of five officially recognized Protestant churches in Beijing.

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

In the wake of a no-holds barred battle of words in the Congress over whether troops in Iraq should come home, the president is hoping that big-ticket issues in China – democracy, human rights, security and trade – will drown out all the noise in Washington, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts.

At a Sunday press conference with U.S. reporters, Mr. Bush said members of Congress have every right to disagree, but added that they have a responsibility to provide a credible alternative.

The president also rejected the notion that one's stance for or against the war raised or diminished their patriotism. "I heard somebody say well maybe so and so's not patriotic because they disagree with my position," Mr. Bush said. "I totally reject that thought. This is not an issue of who's patriotic and not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest open debate about the way forward in Iraq."

In a day of talks, the president was expected to trumpet a trade concession from China. He also was to prod Chinese leaders about currency system changes, human rights and the piracy of American movies, computer programs and other copyrighted material. Bush also was seeking China's cooperation on North Korea, Iran, Syria and other trouble spots.

Mr. Bush, however, chose to make the worship service his first public event during a two-day state visit to China. The significance of Mr. Bush's visit to the church, a modest marble-and-brick building tucked off an alley, was clear to the congregation of about 400.

The president received a standing ovation when he entered the sanctuary, which looked much like a classroom with wooden movie theater seats. There was more applause when the pastor announced his presence, and members of the choir assembled outside to see Mr. Bush off afterward.

"The spirit of the Lord is very strong inside your church," Bush said.

The service at Gangwashi Church was in Chinese, but its structure and content would have been familiar to any Protestant parishioner in the United States. Mr. Bush and other guests listened to a translation over headphones.

In the church's guest book, Mr. Bush wrote "May God bless the Christians of China."

Under the president's inscription, the first lady wrote, "And with love and respect, Laura Bush."

This month, the State Department cited China, a land of 1.3 billion people, as one of eight countries of "particular concern" for denying religious freedom. The White House urged China's state-controlled media not to censor news of Mr. Bush's visit, which includes meetings and dinner with China's top leaders.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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