WASHINGTON — President Obama and top members of his administration raised pointed concerns Monday about Beijing's recent security crackdown on democracy advocates during the first day of high-level talks between the two nations.
The president "underscored his support for the universal human rights of freedom of expression and worship and of access to information and political participation," the White House said in a statement after Obama's meeting with Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo.
Obama's comments came after Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had argued earlier Monday that China's security crackdown, the largest in years, threatened the country's long-term stability, which the U.S. side said depended on a respect for human rights.
The world's two biggest economies clashed over America's massive trade deficit with China. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it would be in China's self-interest to allow its currency to appreciate at a faster rate and allow Chinese consumer interest rates to rise. The stronger yuan and higher Chinese interest rates would help boost domestic demand and help lower America's trade deficit.
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But a Chinese official blamed U.S. policies for the ballooning trade gap. Commerce Minister Chen Deming told a news conference that China's currency appreciation was being carried out in a "very healthy manner."
He said the United States needed to change its policies on high-tech sales and investment as a way to spur American manufacturing.