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Bush Back Home After Asia Tour

President Bush has wrapped up his trip to China and is back in the United States.

The trip home was an accomplishment of sorts in itself. CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports that for the first time ever, Air Force One took a shortcut home - through Russian airspace. Russia gave its permission as a sign of friendship. The Russian route will eliminate an hour's worth of flying time and what would typically be a two-hour refueling stop in Alaska.

Speaking in Beijing Friday, Mr. Bush held up American values as a model for China in a keynote speech broadcast live to the Chinese people from Tsinghua University.

On the last day of his China visit, Mr. Bush - speaking alongside China's enigmatic heir apparent Hu Jintao - urged China to expand personal, political and religious freedoms, to tolerate diversity and dissent, and to respect the rule of law.

Answering a question from a student on Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a renegade province, Mr. Bush said the United States would stick by a commitment to help the island defend itself but he hoped for a peaceful resolution between Taipei and Beijing.

"Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos, but it does not, because freedom means more than every man for himself," argued Mr. Bush, in his address to students and others at what is one of China's top technical and engineering institutions.

"Freedom of religion is not something to be feared. It's to be welcomed, because faith gives us a moral core and teaches us to hold ourselves to high standards, to love and to serve others, and to live responsible lives," he said.

"In a free society...debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution," he added, addressing the long-standing Chinese argument that greater political and personal freedoms could bring chaos in a nation of more than one billion people.

Mr. Bush, on the final day of six-day visit to Japan, South Korea and China, said he looked forward to the day when China would expand democratic elections to the national level.

"Change is coming. China is already having secret ballot and competitive elections at the local level," he added. "Nearly 20 years ago, a great Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping...said that China would eventually expand democratic elections all the way to the national level. I look forward to that day."

In a strategy used by many U.S. presidents, Mr. Bush extolled the U.S. system rather than explicitly criticizing China's political system and human rights record and he suggested that many Chinese had a "misleading and...harmful" view of the United States.

"Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law, is not to be feared," he said.

"We are a free nation, where men and women have the opportunity to achieve their dreams," he added. "You can support the policies of our government, or you are free to openly disagree with them."

Answering questions afterwards, Mr. Bush restated his commitment to the oe China policy, which says the mainland and Taiwan are part of a single country, but he added that the United States would help Taiwan defend itself if necessary.

"When my country makes an agreement we stick with it and there is (something) called the Taiwan Relations Act and I honor that act, which says we will help Taiwan defend herself if provoked," he said.

Students pressed him on why he called for "peaceful resolution" rather than "peaceful reunification" between the mainland and Taiwan.

"We've also sent the same message that there should be no provocation by either party, rather peaceful dialogue," he said.

Mr. Bush spoke after an introduction by Vice President Hu.

The meeting with Hu, a Tsinghua alumnus, was a carefully orchestrated attempt to boost Hu's standing at home and allow U.S. officials to scrutinize the likely next leader of China.

"It's for the two to talk," a White House official said.

Hu is widely expected to take over from Chinese President Jiang Zemin when he retires as head of the Communist Party late this year and as state president in March 2003.

On Thursday, Jiang said both he and Hu had accepted invitations to visit the United States this year.

Earlier on Friday, Mr. Bush sat down with China's Premier Zhu Rongji at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse for talks on trade.

Washington is seeking reassurance that China will adhere to its commitments to open its markets under World Trade Organization agreements in its first year as a member of the global trade body.

U.S. agriculture officials said on Thursday Washington might make a formal complaint against China's new rules on bio-engineered foods with the WTO, which China joined in December.

Mr. Bush brought up the rules - which threaten $1 billion in U.S. soybean sales - with Jiang on Thursday, but a U.S. official said later the issue was unresolved.

The issue has dogged China's trade relations with its second biggest trading partner. China is the United States' fourth largest trading partner.

In a rare and unscripted moment of candor during a news conference with Mr. Bush on Thursday, Jiang said he had read the Bible, the Koran and Buddhist scriptures despite being a non-believer.

But the Chinese leader brushed aside questions about why Beijing had imprisoned more than 50 Roman Catholic bishops, saying China protected such freedoms in its constitution but that those who broke the law must be punished.

"Whatever religion people believe in, they have to abide by the law. So some of the law-breakers have been detained because of their violation of law, not because of their religious beliefs," Jiang said.

Before Mr. Bush spoke, 15 U.S.-based scientists with ties to Beijing's Tsinghua University petitioned him on behalf of jailed members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group. China brands Falun Gong an evil sect.

After his speech, President Bush had lunch with Jiang and stopped off at the Great Wall, the 3,000 mile long barrier uilt centuries ago to keep out enemies. Today, it's China's biggest tourist attraction and bit of a physical endurance contest.

After 25 minutes on the wall, where he was serenaded by children singing "Edelweiss," from "The Sound of Music," Mr. Bush signed a guest book, turned to reporters and said: "Let's go home."

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