BEIJING: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to respect differences between the two countries, as US officials scrambled to resolve a row over a dissident.
Wen welcomed Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to the ornate Purple Light Pavilion of Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership’s compound in the heart of Beijing.
The premier considered a reformist in the opaque communist system told the US visitors that the annual two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue that closes Friday between the Pacific powers had been “highly productive.”
“What is the secret behind the sustained and the steady growth of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue? I believe the most important thing is that we respect each other and treat each other as equals and have accommodated each other’s major concerns,” Wen said at the start of the meeting.
Clinton and Geithner earlier met with President Hu Jintao, who a day earlier at the start of the talks made a similar call for the two nations to respect differences.
The long-planned talks have been marred by a row over Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who fled to the US embassy last week. He left Wednesday under a controversial deal but has since said he wants to go to the United States.
After fleeing house arrest, Chen released a defiant open video message addressed to Wen as he sought to stop what the dissident said was a campaign of harassment and beatings against him and his family.
Chen, who has been blind since childhood, ran afoul of authorities by exposing forced abortions and sterilisations under China’s one-child-only policy. He spent four years in jail before being confined to his home in 2010 with apparent orders to be quiet.