Chinese President Hu Jintao sought on Thursday to assure U.S. business executives with ties to China that his country is not a military threat to the United States but an economic partner ready to help lead the world to full recovery from the deepest financial crisis in generations.
“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 with lawmakers, where Mr. Hu drew fire about China’s human rights policies and other practices from some of the harshest U.S. congressional critics.
On Wednesday, Mr. Hu had spent much of the day in meetings at the White House before a state dinner there. President Barack Obama, too, pressed Mr. Hu on the rights issue but said the United States should not fear China’s rise. Mr. Obama announced job-creating business deals with the Asian giant worth billions of dollars to companies.
At Thursday’s luncheon, Mr. Hu told the business audience that while the world was returning to growth, there remain many “unstabilising factors,” and full recovery will be a difficult process.
China and the United States are vastly different countries with distinct cultures and traditions, he said. “It’s only normal we have some differences.”
But he said those differences, or particular incidents, should not be allowed to affect warming U.S.-Chinese relations.
He said that U.S. and Chinese dealings should be based on “mutual respect and mutual benefits.”
Mr. Hu 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.”
The Chinese leader was introduced by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who as an envoy for President Richard Nixon was instrumental in opening formal ties between the two countries in 1974.
Mr. Kissinger said normalising U.S.-Chinese relations “after so many years of separation did shake the world.”
Now, Mr. Kissinger said, “we are working to build a world, not shake it.”