WASHINGTON — Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday warned the United States to respect Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet but assured that his country had no interest in engaging in an arms race.
Hu repeatedly urged “mutual respect” and cooperation between the Pacific powers as he delivered a policy speech on a state visit in which his hosts have repeatedly pressed him about human rights.
At a luncheon with senior US officials and business leaders, Hu said that Taiwan and Tibet “concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and they represent China’s core interests.”
“A review of the history of our relations tells us that US-China relations will enjoy smooth and steady growth when the two countries handle well issues involving each other’s major interests,” Hu said.
“Otherwise our relations will suffer constant trouble or even tension,” he warned.
President Barack Obama, at a joint news conference with Hu on Wednesday, had urged China to engage in talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, although he reaffirmed the US view that the Himalayan territory is part of China.
The United States and its allies, particularly Japan, have repeatedly voiced concern about China’s double-digit growth of military spending. China tested a stealth fighter this month just as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited.
Hu dismissed concerns, saying: “We do not engage in arms races or pose a military threat to any country. China will never seek hegemony or pursue an expansionist policy.”
However, much of Hu’s speech was conciliatory. He urged cooperation between the world’s largest developed and developing nations on issues from reviving the moribund Doha trade liberalization talks to fighting climate change.
“China and the United States should pursue global cooperation as partners to fulfill common responsibilities and meet common challenges,” Hu said.
He also said China sought to work with the United States around Asia, despite growing concerns in Japan and Southeast Asian nations about Chinese assertiveness in recent months over myriad territorial disputes.
“We should stay committed to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, engage in open and inclusive regional cooperation and turn the Asia-Pacific into an important region where China and the United States work closely together on the basis of mutual respect,” Hu said.
The leader of the world’s most populous nation also hit back at the sour US mood over China’s economic clout. Hu met earlier Thursday with US lawmakers, many of whom accuse China of killing American manufacturing jobs by keeping its currency artificially low.
Hu, citing an unspecified study, said that “quality yet inexpensive products” from China have saved US consumers 600 billion dollars over the past 10 years.
In China, more than 70 percent of US companies stayed profitable even during the worst of the global economic crisis, Hu said.
“The China-US relationship is not one in which one side’s gain means the other one’s loss,” Hu said.