China no threat, Hu says


NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Chinese President Hu Jintao told an audience at Yale University yesterday that China's rapid economic development is not a threat to the United States and that the two countries' shared strategic interests should inevitably make them partners.

Yale was his last stop on a four-day visit to the United States meant to quell Washington's concerns about China's growing trade surplus and increased political muscle, as well as to build business ties.

His speech to an audience of about 600 students and professors was also broadcast live in China except for a brief question-and-answer session in which Hu was queried about whether China views the United States as an ally or adversary, and if China's economic development comes at the cost of political rights. Hu answered that China will open its political system gradually and "prudently" but that the decades of booming growth demonstrated that China's political system suits its development.

Hu, 67, did not directly address issues that were the focus of his Thursday meeting with President Bush - China's trade imbalance with the United States, the value of its currency and its reluctance to press Iran to rein in its nuclear program. But he portrayed the United States and China as equals and allies, and seemed to answer Bush's call for China to become a responsible "stakeholder" in world affairs.

"Both China and the United States are of significant influence in the world," he said. "Our two countries must not only become stakeholders, but should also become partners in constructive cooperation."

The audience at Yale, Bush's alma mater and the university that had America's first Chinese graduate in 1854, was receptive and polite. Students giggled when Hu's translation earpiece fell out of his ear and when he clapped along with the audience applauding him. But his speech was uninterrupted by hecklers, unlike the previous day at the White House when a protester hiding in the press stands diverted cameras from Hu with her shouts.

Hu's motorcade passed through thousands of supporters who waved red Chinese flags in pride on one side of the street, and protesters on the other, who hoisted banners denouncing the prosecution of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement in China. Falun Gong members have dogged Hu's every stop, and he was infuriated by Thursday's disruption, said a Chinese official.

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