Hu Jintao

Hu seeks better ties before Bush exit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2007, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao is preparing to launch a diplomatic offensive to improve Sino-US ties before George W. Bush leaves office, and has consulted leading experts on American affairs - including, for the first time, thinkers outside the government establishment - sources say.

The president wished to avoid the risk of turbulence in a US election year and when a new administration took office, one source said.

Mr Hu, who begins his second and final five-year term next spring, sees stable US ties as crucial to China's development.

The president recently held five hours of face-to-face talks with Wang Jisi , director of the Central Party School's Institute of International and Strategic Studies, at his official residence in Zhongnanhai, a diplomatic source said.

Professor Wang, formerly director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, is a leading expert on US affairs.

Mr Hu also held separate talks with two other experts from the academy, the source said, as well as consulting recently retired foreign minister Li Zhaoxing and Mr Li's successor, Yang Jiechi. Both are American affairs experts and former ambassadors to Washington.

The president's office also asked several leading experts to recommend steps Mr Hu could take to persuade Washington to agree to bolster ties.

'The president wants to upgrade the Sino-US relationship from what is currently seen by both sides as 'constructive co-operation' to one of 'strategic partnership',' this source said. 'He hopes to forge closer Sino-US relations before Mr Bush leaves office because history suggests ties are often unstable during election years and the first few years of a new president in the White House.'

Mr Hu flew to Germany yesterday to attend the G8 summit, where he is expected to meet Mr Bush.

In his conversations with the academics and others, Mr Hu said improved Sino-US ties were crucial for China's development and peaceful rise. He saw a 'strategic partnership' as key to realising his vision of building a 'harmonious world', they said.

Diplomats said such a partnership would boost China's influence in formulating the rules of international conduct in the 21st century.

Former US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick has defined US policy towards China as shaping it as a 'responsible stake holder', an idea endorsed by Mr Bush. But Washington is still ambiguous about China, with top diplomats repeatedly saying the relationship is a complex one.