President Hu Jintao said on Thursday that China posed no military threat to other countries, and said import demand from its roaring economy has generated 14 million jobs overseas.
Mr. Hu’s comments were made in a speech to U.S. business leaders and underscored the key message of his current state visit to the U.S. -- that China’s rise is good for America and the world.
President Barack Obama struck a similar note after formal talks with the Chinese leader on Wednesday, announcing job-creating business deals with the Asian giant worth $45 billion to U.S. companies.
“We will remain committed to the path of peaceful development,” Mr. Hu told a U.S.-China Business Council luncheon. “We do not engage in arms races, we are not a military threat to any country. China will never seek to dominate or pursue an expansionist policy.”
The group, made up of U.S. business leaders whose companies have significant dealings within China, proved a far more receptive audience than the Chinese leader found an earlier meeting on Capitol Hill, where Mr. Hu drew fire over China’s human rights policies and other practices from some of the harshest U.S. congressional critics.
House Speaker John Boehner said participants at the House meeting with Hu “raised our strong, ongoing concerns with reports of human rights violations in China, including the denial of religious freedom and the use of coercive abortion” as a result of China’s one-child policy.
He said House members also addressed a need for China to better protect intellectual property and curtail the aggressive behaviour of North Korea.
Mr. Hu also met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who on Wednesday called the Chinese leader “a dictator” in an interview, although he later tried to recant the comment. During the state visit, several Republican lawmakers also have assailed the Chinese government’s record on military expansion, financial strategy and weapons sales.
China has unnerved nations in the region by asserting its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea. U.S. officials have also noted its development of a recently tested Stealth jet fighter and ballistic missiles that appear aimed at projecting its power in the West Pacific -- a crucial conduit for world trade.
Mr. Hu said the U.S. and China should closely with each other in the Asia-Pacific region on a basis of “mutual respect” -- a theme he returned to often in his 20-minute address.
Mr. Hu said that China’s economy had grown by an annual average of 11 percent in the past decade and had average imports of $687 billion, creating 14 million jobs in other countries.
He said China had helped contain the global crisis and in efforts to reform the international financial system. He said it was in the interest of both the United States and China to work together “to achieve a full recovery of the world economy.”
Mr. Hu did directly not address U.S. manufacturers contention that China’s currency is undervalued by up to 40 percent, making its exports cheaper and making U.S. products more pricey for Chinese consumers. But he said inexpensive Chinese goods had saved over $600 billion to U.S. consumers.
China would pursue a “win-win strategy of opening up,” he said, welcoming other countries to participate in China’s development.
Economic ties, long seen as a source of stability in the often rocky U.S.-China relationship, have caused friction in recent years. U.S. lawmakers from both Republican and Democrat parties are pushing legislation to penalize China for its currency policy which they say contributes to high unemployment in America.
Mr. Obama bluntly restated that concern Wednesday, saying China’s government had “intervened very forcefully” in the currency markets to the tune of $200 billion “just recently.” He also highlighted allegations of intellectual property rights violations, citing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as saying that only one customer in 10 of Microsoft products in China are actually paying for them.
But Obama also stressed the importance of the growing economic bonds between the two superpowers and said China was taking significant steps to curtail the theft of intellectual property and expand U.S. investment.
He said the newly announced business deals worth $45 billion -- which include a highly sought-after $19 billion deal for 200 Boeing airplanes -- would help create 235,000 U.S. jobs, in addition to the half-million U.S. jobs already generated by the United States’ annual $100 billion in exports to China.
Mr. Obama has faced criticism for granting the state dinner to the Chinese communist leader, whose visit comes just a month after jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama won the prize the previous year.
But the two sides have generally played down differences and stressed areas of cooperation, ranging from a plan to cooperate on nuclear security to an extension of the loan of two Chinese pandas to Washington’s National Zoo.
Later on Thursday, Mr. Hu will travel to Mr. Obama’s home city of Chicago, where he will meet with business leaders. He will also visit a Chinese language and cultural centre at a high school and a Chinese auto parts producer during his two-day visit.