Chinese President Hu Jintao plans to urge President Bush at a coming meeting to let companies from both nations pursue energy acquisitions without politics getting in the way, a senior Chinese official said Thursday.
The official, talking about the scheduled Sept. 7 meeting in the United States of the two presidents, said energy "is very likely to be one of the items on the agenda."
While each country should be able to pursue its own strategy, "we hope that business issues will prevail and the issues will not become politicized," the official said.
The meeting between Hu and Bush will take place five weeks after China's Cnooc Ltd. halted its efforts to buy U.S. oil company Unocal Corp. for $18.5 billon. American lawmakers raised an outcry about a Chinese company potentially buying U.S. energy assets. While Cnooc's offer for Unocal topped that of Chevron Corp. of the United States, the Chinese company withdrew it because of the stiff U.S. resistance, leaving the way open for the American bidder to win.
Chinese officials have high hopes for Hu's trip, his first state visit to the United States since taking office in March 2003. They say that relations between the two countries remain good, though they acknowledge that tensions have been rising during the past year over issues including America's widening trade deficit with China, Beijing's rising demand for oil and other natural resources, and concern about increased Chinese military spending.
Hu is expected to meet members of Congress and see factories in a trip that the Chinese government hopes will allow him to meet "regular people" as well as politicians. The Chinese leader is expected to give a speech at Yale University.
Among the messages Chinese officials hope Hu will convey is how open China has been to U.S. investment. The senior Chinese official, in his remarks Thursday about the trip, said more than 50,000 American enterprises have invested in China "and we welcome their business." He estimated American investment in China at about $50 billion.
During the trip, Hu also is expected to highlight moves by China to increase its imports from the United States, for such products as Boeing Co. planes and soybeans.
Chinese officials say bilateral relations have been improving in the past two months. China recently moved to allow the yuan, formerly pegged at 8.28 to the dollar, to rise about 2 percent and also announced it would link the yuan to a basket of currencies. U.S. critics had been pressuring China to make an adjustment to its currency, which they argue makes Chinese exports to the United States unfairly inexpensive. Many argued that China's move didn't go far enough.
Hu doesn't intend to discuss China's currency during the meeting with Bush, according to the senior official, who called it an internal matter. However, he said Beijing will continue on "this road to reform" of its currency, though he declined to specify any possible further adjustments.