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Hu Jintao, globalist
Some people were disappointed in the speech of Chinese President Hu Jintao Wednesday in Everett. There was no criticism of America in it, no florid point of view. Here was a man in a blue suit telling a room full of blue suits that their two countries were on the right path. Things were good, and if both sides worked at it, they would get better.
In a speech scheduled at Yale University, Hu is set to respond to American fears of a rising China. Wednesday was his economic speech. There was no conflict in this one, and little drama.
But if you were at Boeing, which has sold 678 airplanes to China in the past quarter-century, you might have been reassured to hear China expects to be in the market for 2,000 more in the next 15 years and thinks highly of the ones made here.
If you were at Microsoft, you might be reassured to hear that China's president had committed his country to "crack down hard" on piracy. If you were at Starbucks, you might be encouraged by China's commitment to double output per person in this decade, because that will increase the people's ability to buy doppio espresso.
Hu meant to reassure Americans when he said China has no particular need to have a large trade surplus with the U.S. — that it is a reflection of different economic strategies and circumstances. In other words: It will go away. Let's not fight about it.
He said China aims to keep the dollar-yuan rate "basically stable" in an "adaptive" way. Hu does not want to start a run either for or against his central bank, and so speaks in code. We guess it means China's currency will continue its upward creep.
But most of all, the speech was notable for what was not in it. There were no further specific steps in it, which disappointed people interested in some specific issues. But there was also no grievance or sense of injury in it. There was no admonishment in it. There was no Marxism in it, nor any argument to treat China differently because it is poor.
Hu wants China to be treated as an equal. There was an endorsement of "our free-trade regime," a call for the free flow of investment and a gentle reminder to keep politics out of economic decisions.
And there was a very clear thank-you to those who took an interest in his country and pushed open the door.
He underlined that by giving two un-Chinese kisses on the cheek to an elderly but proud Henry Kissinger, who brought together President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong a third of a century ago. That was news. This was a reminder of how important that was.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company