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Obama Meets Chinese Leader

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And Im Robert Siegel.

In Beijing tonight, President Obama sat down for an informal dinner with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao. Serious discussions were put off until tomorrow. The two leaders will hold a more formal meeting in Chinas Great Hall of the People. Earlier today, Mr. Obama spoke with a group of university students in Shanghai.

NPRs Scott Horsley is traveling with the president and he sent this report.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Most of the students who attended the presidents town hall werent even born back in the 1970s, when the U.S. began slowly opening diplomatic doors to China. Back then, their country was mostly seen as a strategic counterweight to Russia. In contrast, President Obama is now trying to enlist both China and Russia as allies to head off such 21st century threats as a nuclear-armed Iran. Mr. Obama told the students both China and the U.S. are more prosperous and secure when they act as partners rather than adversaries.

President BARACK OBAMA: Just look at how far we have come. In 1979, trade between the United States and China stood at roughly $5 billion. Today, it tops over $400 billion each year. The commerce affects our peoples lives in so many ways.

HORSLEY: What Mr. Obama didnt say there is that of the more than $400 billion in trade between the two countries, more than $300 billion flows just one way, from China to the U.S. Thats the imbalance he hopes to address. So, China not always sells to America, but also buys more from America, creating U.S. jobs in the process. The presidents leverage is somewhat limited though, since the U.S. depends on China to help bankroll its mounting budget deficits. Students at the town hall, who were chosen mostly by universities around Shanghai, didnt seem all that interested in economics though. Instead, they asked about Chinas sister cities in the U.S., about cultural differences between the two countries and about the presidents Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Obama answered the last of these saying its everyones job to promote peace. And as China becomes more of a global power, he said, it has more of a responsibility to help tackle other global problems.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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