China's President Begins U.S. Visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao stops to greet supporters and media after his arrival at Paine Field, in Everett, Wash., Tuesday, April 18, 2006. Hu planned to kick off his U.S. trip by meeting with Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and other Seattle business leaders later in the day, part of a two-day whirlwind Washington state visit that will also include a stop at Boeing Co. AP

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the Seattle area Tuesday for talks with business leaders before he heads to Washington to meet political leaders worried about China's muscular stance in trade, energy and currency policy.

Hu planned to meet with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and other business leaders, and tour a Boeing commercial jet plant on Wednesday.

Hu began his trip in Everett, about 30 miles north of Seattle, where about 120 members of the Seattle Kung Fu Club and a handful of ribbon dancers from a Seattle elementary school gathered to welcome him.

Hu also was greeted by government and business leaders, including Gov. Chris Gregoire and Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz.

The Chinese president has set an ambitious mission for his four-day U.S. tour. It comes at a time of unease among American businesses, political leaders and the public about how China is using its new power.

Hu's summit with President Bush on Thursday will cover a broad agenda, from China's much criticized currency and other trade policies, to its aggressive search for oil and its stance toward nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

The visit comes as Redmond-based Microsoft, after years of battling widespread software piracy in the potentially lucrative China market, is hopeful that things are changing. Chinese government officials say they are serious about cracking down on sales of illegal copies of Microsoft's Windows operating system, and some computer makers are pledging to ship more computers with legitimate Windows software installed.

One of those companies, Lenovo Group Ltd., met Monday with Microsoft officials to reaffirm Lenovo's 5-month-old commitment to ship computers with genuine operating systems. Microsoft held a similar meeting last week with Chinese computer manufacturer Founder Technology Group Corp., also among the companies that have pledged to promote legal Windows use.

Although analysts say it could be some time before the promised changes have a significant effect on Microsoft's sales, the pledges are a feel-good backdrop for Hu's visit with Gates and other business and government executives.

Chinese government officials promised their U.S. counterparts last week to fight software piracy, as they tried to ease tension over the record trade gap between the two countries.

For Microsoft, the move is important because it sees China as a major market in which to increase revenues.

Lenovo, which last year bought IBM's personal-computer business, is the world's third-largest computer company. In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanquing said 70 percent of the computers Lenovo sells in China now are loaded with licensed Windows copies, up from 10 percent six months ago.

Yang said the Chinese government has been a major force behind the change, both by requiring government agencies and big companies to install legal software and by cracking down on piracy.

Lenovo expects to buy $1.2 billion worth of Microsoft software in the next 12 months, including about $200 million for the Chinese market.

The company also is eager to improve protections on intellectual property because of its own international aspirations.

"The Chinese are trying to demonstrate that they are not only the world's largest country but a major purchaser of American products," Jeffrey Bader, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute said.


By Allison Linn
  • Amy Clark

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