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Obama And Hu Tackle Human Rights, Currency During Press Conference

President Obama welcomed his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, during a ceremony Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House. i i

hide captionPresident Obama welcomed his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, during a ceremony Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama welcomed his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, during a ceremony Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House.

President Obama welcomed his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, during a ceremony Wednesday on the South Lawn of the White House.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

(Note: This was a live blog of President Obama and President Hu's press conference, so we've edited the headline and the top of the post to reflect the highlights.)

During a press conference in the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China tackled two of the most contentious issues head on.

President Obama was asked how the United States could keep good relations with a country with such a spotty record on human rights. The president said the two leaders had talked about the issue and he had made it clear to President Hu that the United States "speaks up for these freedoms... and the dignity of every human being."

President Obama admitted that talks about human rights caused tension and both he and President Hu tried to put China into context. When Hu answered the question, he said, China is under a different set of "national circumstances." China is a developing country with a huge population, said Hu, and because of that, it still faces "challenges."

President Obama noted that the country had made strides in the past 30 years toward improving human rights in the country.

Obama also took on the issue of currency. The president said the Chinese government has taken steps to keep the Yuan undervalued. In a careful diplomatic dance, the president first mentioned a litany of places where the U.S. is failing economically and then said that the U.S. has to be able to play in a level field.

While President Hu did not address the currency question directly, President Obama said Hu had agreed to take steps to let the market control the value of the Yuan.

That said, both leaders made it clear on more than one occasion that cooperation between the two countries is paramount.

Our original post:

This morning, President Obama welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao to the White House in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance that included a 21-gun salute and a colonial fife and drum band.

Both heads of state made brief statements during the ceremony. Both mostly stayed away from contentious issues like human rights and China's regulation of its currency.

Tonight, Obama will host the first state dinner for a Chinese head of state since 1997.

But first at 1 p.m. ET, they will take questions from reporters in the East Room of the White House. We'll blog as it happens, so make sure to refresh.

Update at 1:12 p.m. ET: The press conference is running late. It should start shortly.

1:27 p.m.: We're off. Obama is giving remarks saying a cooperative relationship with China is good for the U.S. He says exports to China are growing twice as fast as those to the rest of the world. Cooperation is also good for China and the world, says Obama.

1:29 p.m.: With China's help, Obama says, the Korean peninsula has stayed stable and the sanctions against Iran were possible.

1:30 p.m.: Obama says he made it clear to President Hu that trade between the two countries needs to be fair, including Chinese adherence to copyrights.

1:31 p.m.: Obama says he told President Hu that Chinese currency is undervalued and that he hopes that China's currency will be valued by the market.

1:33 p.m.: Obama says that Hu agrees that North Korea should remain a nuclear-free nation.

1:34 p.m.: On human rights, Obama says: "The United States speaks up for these freedoms... and the dignity of every human being." He said China and U.S. have resolved to continue formal dialogue about human rights.

1:38 p.m.: President Hu is now speaking through a translator. He says the talks were "candid" and "pragmatic."

1:40 p.m.: Hu says they discussed some "disagreements" in the economic and trade areas. And will continue to address the issues with an agreement of "mutual respect."

1:41 p.m.: Hu says both countries agree that the G-20 should play a larger role in global economic policy.

1:41 p.m.: "China's development is an opportunity for the world," says Hu.

1:44 p.m.: First question: How can the U.S. be so allied with a country with so many human rights abuses?

1:45 p.m.: Obama takes the reporter's second question about U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr., who has hinted at 2012 presidential run. Obama says Huntsman will be very succesful in whatever he choses to do. And in a bit of light moment says that Huntsman working with him will be good in any Republican primary.

On the human rights issue: Obama says China has a different political system than the U.S. and is at a different point in development. But as Americans, he says, we have a universal view of certain rights that transcend cultures. "I have been very candid with President Hu." The talks about human rights are a soruce of tension. But Obama says that there has been an evolution in China over the last 30 years.

He says that 30 years from now, there will be more evolution.

1:52 p.m.: President Hu heard Obama's answer but did not take a shot at the question. Now, a question from a Chinese reporter. She asks president Hu what the two sides can do to grow closer and asks President Obama if he could live comfortably with an increasingly more powerful China.

1:53 p.m.: President Hu says that ever since the normalization of relationships between the U.S. and China, has helped Chinese growth. He says the number of people who travel to and from China would have been unconceivable 32 years ago. He says during the visit, both sides will further expand people to people exchanges. He says the young people hold the future of Chinese-U.S. relations and through those exchanges the relation between the two countries will grow stronger.

2:00 p.m.: In response to the second question, president Obama says, "I absolutely believe China's peaceful rise is good for the world."

"The development of China," says Obama has brought more positive changes to people's standard of living than almost any other time in the world.

China's rise brings enormous opportunity, says Obama. "We want to sell you all kinds of stuff," says Obama to laughter. And all of that, he adds, translates to U.S. jobs.

"China's rise is potentially good for the world," says Obama, to the extent that in China the U.S. has a partner to keep "rogue states" in check and to the extent that they help other developing countries.

2:06 p.m.: Next question from Bloomberg: Asks if he could ask the earlier question about human rights. And a question about Speaker Bohner not attending the state dinner because they see China as an economic threat. What can he say to them?

President Hu says he wants to clarify that he did not hear the question about human rights, but he will answer the question as he heard it. He said he and President Obama have met eight times and they have covered human rights.

"China is always committed to the protection" of human rights and has made great progress on that front. He says "we need to take into account" the different national circumtances when it comes to human rights.

China is a developing country with a huge population, he says. In this context, China still faces challenges.

"We will continue our effort to improve the life of Chinese people" and to encourage democracy.

He says that though there are disagreements between the U.S. and China, China is willing to talk about the issues if there is mutual respect.

2:13 p.m.: Obama takes a question about the Chinese currency. He says he first met President Hu in the thick of the financial crisis. He said what was clear is that the U.S. couldn't go back to a system where the U.S. was consuming massively but not producing. He says there are structural reforms that need to happen in the U.S. in order to keep the U.S. competitive. Obama says we need to produce more engineers than lawyers.

It also means that the U.S. needs a level playing field with the U.S.'s trade partners, says Obama. Some of it, says Obama, has nothing to do with monetary policy. Some of it has to do with government procurement policy in China. It should be fair to U.S. business and some of it has to do with intellectual property issues. Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft, was at one meeting says Obama. He said one of ten of the products in China are licensed legally. The Chinese have taken some action, said Obama.

He says the currency is a problem. Obama says the Chinese government has taken aggressive steps to control the value of the RMB and President Hu, said Obama, has agreed to take steps to move the Chinese Yuan to a more market system.

2:22 p.m.: Another question from the Chinese press to President Obama. Many people believe that the biggest problem between the two sides is the lack of "strategic mutual trust." He asks if the president agrees with that. He also asks the question to Hu about how to beef up relationships when it comes to global issues.

President Obama says mutual trust is paramount. And that the U.S. and China should not see every issue through the lens of rivalry. "We welcome China's rise... we just want to make sure that that rise occurs in a form that reinforces international norms... and enhances security and peace."

"The more we understand each others' challenges the more we can take advantage of opportunities."

2:31 p.m.: Hu says in a global world, countries have to work together, especially China as the largest developing country and the U.S. as the largest developed country.

2:34 p.m.: After a nearly one-hour, that ends the press conference.

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