House Democrats announce their \"Make It In America\" agenda
The United States said it will raise concerns with China from currency values to human rights during talks next week but acknowledged progress by Beijing in the economic sphere. The world\'s two
largest economies sit down Monday for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the main forum between the two countries whose relations have become increasingly complex as China\'s role in the world rises.
US accusations that China is artificially keeping its yuan low have long bedeviled talks. But David Loevinger, a senior Treasury Department official, said we \"absolutely see a change in tone\" from China as it confronts inflation.
\"Eighteen months ago, the Chinese exchange rate was frozen; today it\'s moving,\" Loevinger told reporters.
\"Next week, we are going to press China to let its exchange rate adjust at a faster pace to correct its still substantial undervaluation,\" he said.
China, he said, \"continues to intervene massively in foreign exchange markets to constrain the appreciation of its currency.\"
The yuan has risen five percent against the dollar in the past year, or 10 % if taking into account inflation.
The United States and other trading partners have charged that China has kept the yuan below its true value to make exports cheaper, fueling a manufacturing boom that has led to soaring growth over the past decade.
But dynamics have changed in recent months as China grows concerned about inflation. China\'s consumer prices rose 5.4 percent year-on-year in March -- the fastest pace since July 2008 and well above the government\'s 2011 target of 4 %.
Pressure has also subsided in Washington after the Republican Party won last year\'s congressional elections in which many candidates from President Barack Obama\'s Democratic Party blamed China\'s trade practices for US economic woes.
Nonetheless, US officials say that they have a series of economic concerns with China. On Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke warned starkly that China was making life more difficult for US businesses through its regulations.
In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu defended Beijing\'s policies on foreign investment, saying: \"We uphold a win-win strategy of opening up the Chinese market.\"
While seeing progress on the currency issue, US policymakers have charged that China\'s human rights record is deteriorating as the country mounts its biggest clampdown on dissent in years.
Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said that the United States would raise human rights concerns \"directly, honestly and openly\" with visiting Chinese officials.
\"We ask Chinese interlocutors for explanations about disappearances, about arrests, and legal procedures that we feel are either lacking or inappropriate,\" he said.
But human rights groups will be keeping a close eye on how loudly the United States raises those concerns.
The United States made no tangible progress last week during an annual human rights dialogue with China, leading some activists to fear that Beijing held the meeting in hopes of avoiding the topic during the upcoming talks.
Apparently concerned over democracy uprisings in the Arab world, China in recent weeks has rounded up dozens of critics including Ai Weiwei, a world-acclaimed avant-garde artist whose outspoken views had been begrudgingly tolerated in the past.
China on Thursday warned other countries to stop commenting on Ai\'s detention. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard pressed the case on a recent trip to Beijing and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann was expected to do likewise on an ongoing visit.
Campbell said that the United States hoped to speak to China about situations around the world including fast-moving developments in the Middle East and the deadlock over North Korea\'s nuclear program.
In a sign of warming defense ties, Campbell said that military representatives would take part in the talks for the first time.