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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In China, Bush and Hu Discuss Human Rights

BEIJING -- U.S. President George W. Bush called on China on Sunday to expand religious, political and social freedoms and urged steps to reduce Beijing's huge trade surplus with the United States. Chinese President Hu Jintao promised steps to resolve economic frictions.

The two leaders conferred at the Great Hall of the People on the edge of Tiananmen Square, and Hu said they both sought an outcome of "mutual benefit and win-win results."

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.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed disappointment about 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 told reporters. "But obviously this is a long conversation and a long haul."

Rice also expressed concern about a crackdown on dissidents ahead of Bush's arrival. 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."

China's giant trade surplus is a political headache for Bush. As the president opened his visit, U.S. officials spread word that Beijing was buying 70 of Chicago-based Boeing's 737 planes.

The administration said the purchase was "a testament to how our approach to China is yielding real results." But in a joint appearance with Hu, Bush said China needed to do more to provide fair opportunities for American farmers and businesses seeking access to China's market.

He said China also needed to increase efforts to protect intellectual property rights. Piracy of U.S. movies, computer programs and other copyrighted material is rampant in China. Rice suggested that China was beginning to take the problem more seriously, and that Hu talked about specific steps to crack down on piracy.

Bush is pressing China to speed the revaluation of its currency, which U.S. companies contend is undervalued by as much as 40 percent. That makes Chinese goods cheaper in the United States and American goods more expensive in China.

Hu promised Bush that China would take steps to reduce its trade imbalance with the United States, but he did not discuss any specific steps.

He said China was willing to step up protection for intellectual property rights and would "unswervingly" press ahead with currency reform -- an area where the United States says Beijing has not lived up to its promise for improvement.

"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."

Bush briefly mentioned U.S. concerns about China's growing thirst for oil, which has driven up gasoline prices in the United States.

"We had a good talk about energy," Bush said. "China is a growing economy and China recognizes, like the United States recognizes, [that] in order to keep our economies growing in the years to come, we've got to share technology and diversify away from hydrocarbons."

Bush said the relationship with China was important for the United States and that "this trip will make it stronger."

Bush's first public event during his two-day state visit to China was a service at Gangwashi Church, one of five officially recognized Protestant churches in Beijing.

Later, standing alongside Hu, Bush said, "It is important that social, political and religious freedoms grow in China."

"We encourage China to continue making a historic transition to greater freedom," the president said.

Bush received a standing ovation when he entered the sanctuary, which resembled a classroom with wooden movie theater seats. There was more applause when the pastor announced his presence, and the choir assembled outside to see Bush off afterward.

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

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