THE EVENT: Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting Washington to meet with U.S. political leaders and corporate executives.
The Chinese leader and President Barack Obama are discussing the issues vexing U.S.-China relations, chief among them treatment of U.S. businesses in China, human-right issues and the appreciation of the Chinese yuan.
Hu's visit on Wednesday is the first to the White House by the Chinese leader since 2006, and China's first formal state visit since 1997. Hu said Vice President Biden will visit China this year as part of an effort "to sustain the momentum of high level interactions."
On Thursday, Hu will meet with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and will travel to Chicago. He will fly back to Beijing on Friday.
BUSINESS AT FOREFRONT OF MEETING: Much of Hu's visit centered around business between the U.S. and China. Hu met with more than a dozen chief executives of large U.S. and Chinese companies on Wednesday and vowed that U.S. companies would get "equal treatment" in China.
In the run-up to Hu's visit, U.S. and Chinese companies completed about $45 billion worth of export deals, including the sale of $19 billion of Boeing Co. (BA) aircraft. The other deals fall in the areas of clean energy, computer technology and transportation, among others, and are set to support 235,000 jobs.
On Wednesday, the White House said China has committed to expanding access to U.S. manufactured goods and to strengthening enforcement of intellectual-property rights. China has also pledged to eliminate discriminatory policies for government contracts.
Obama also discussed the topic of beef trade with Hu as the U.S. seeks to make headway in convincing China to remove a seven-year ban on U.S. beef.
HUMAN RIGHTS ADDRESSED: During a press conference at the White House, where Hu and Obama took questions from reporters, Hu defended his country's progress on human-rights issues but acknowledged more "needs to be done."
A number of U.S. officials and private groups have protested Hu's state visit to the White House, noting that Chinese author and dissident Liu Xiaobo--who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December--remains incarcerated in a Chinese prison. Obama raised Liu's case directly with Hu, said a senior U.S. official on condition of anonymity.
Obama said the U.S. wouldn't back down in its efforts to oppose human-rights abuses around the world.
CONGRESS SPEAKS OUT: At a hearing of the House foreign-affairs panel convened to coincide with Hu's visit, Republicans and Democrats criticized Hu as a dictator who runs a regime that imprisons political activists, ignores human-right concerns, exploits African countries for minerals, antagonizes neighbors in Asia and uses the amount of U.S. debt it holds to exploit its economic relationship with the U.S. The lawmakers expressed outrage that the U.S. would welcome Hu as a fellow global leader.
FOREIGN-EXCHANGE CONCERNS: The dollar weakened Wednesday as Hu's visit refocused attention on the U.S. fiscal imbalance and China's controversial currency peg.
In the Asian trading session Wednesday, the People's Bank of China set the parity rate of the yuan to a record high against the dollar.
At the White House press conference, Obama said the U.S. would like to see a faster appreciation of the Chinese yuan and supports the gradual expansion of the international profile of the yuan. The U.S. administration has accused China of getting an unfair advantage on world export markets by keeping the yuan's value artificially low.
Hu indicated that China is committed to letting market forces have a bigger say in determining the yuan's value.
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