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February 23, 2009

Clinton ends Asia trip, asks China to buy US debt
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Sunday urged China to keep buying US debt as she wrapped up her first overseas trip, during which she agreed to work closely with Beijing on the financial crisis.

Clinton made the plea shortly before leaving China, the final stop on a four-nation Asian tour that also took her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, where she worked the crowds to try to restore America's standing abroad.

In Beijing, she called on authorities in Beijing to continue buying US Treasuries, saying it would help jumpstart the flagging US economy and stimulate imports of Chinese goods.

"By continuing to support American Treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognising our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together," Clinton said at the US embassy here.

Clinton had sought to focus on economic and environmental issues in Beijing, saying Washington's concerns about the human rights situation in China should not be a distraction from those vital matters.

Beijing's human rights record emerged nonetheless as an issue, as Chinese activists on Saturday reported being harassed or intimidated by Chinese authorities in a bid to stop them speaking out or meeting Clinton while she was here.

"Plainclothes police blocked me from leaving my home. They were afraid I would try to meet with Hillary Clinton or others in her delegation," democracy campaigner Jiang Qisheng told AFP by phone on Sunday.

Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi largely agreed to disagree on human rights as they pledged future joint action on the economy and climate change.

The goodwill, also on display in her talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, could raise hope for a new era of cooperation between the two largest greenhouse gas emitters and two of the world's top three economies.

"Now it is more important than any time in the past to deepen and develop China-US relations amid the spreading financial crisis and increasing global challenges," Hu told Clinton, according to state media.

Clinton began her day Sunday by attending a Protestant church service in western Beijing at which an AFP journalist saw plainclothes police taking away some visitors who attempted to enter the church.

Their identities could not be confirmed.

Later, Clinton met Chinese women's rights advocates at the US embassy but continued to steer clear of speaking on contentious human rights issues.

Instead, while taping an interview on a Chinese talk show, she focused on the need for China to help finance the massive 787-billion-dollar US economic stimulus plan by continuing to buy US Treasuries.

"Because our economies are so intertwined the Chinese know that in order to start exporting again to its biggest market, the United States had to take some very drastic measures with this stimulus package," Clinton said.

"We have to incur more debt. It would not be in China's interest if we were unable to get our economy moving again."

Clinton added: "The US needs the investment in Treasury bonds to shore up its economy to continue to buy Chinese products."

The US secretary of state had said on Saturday after meetings with China's leaders that Beijing was still confident in US Treasury bonds and expressed Washington's appreciation for the investments.

China is the top holder of US Treasury bills, with 696.2 billion dollars worth of the securities in December followed by Japan with 578.3 billion dollars, according to the latest official data from Washington.

China's economic growth is at its slowest rate in about two decades as foreign demand for its exports, including in the recession-hit United States, has dried up.

Yang indicated Saturday that China would not deviate drastically from its US Treasury policies, but gave no overt promises either way.





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