Bush China Trip to Focus on Economic, Religious Reforms

President Bush will embark on a trip to Asia next week with a stop in China. The president plans to press Chinese President Hu Jintao to allow greater religious freedom and to link China's currency to market forces.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Today the business of the US and China, beginning with a presidential trip. President Bush leaves Monday on a weeklong trip to Asia. He'll stop in four countries, including China, where he'll meet with President Hu Jintao. The White House has long accused China of undervaluing its currency in a way that hurts American companies and inflates China's trade surplus with the US. NPR's David Greene previews the trip.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The president is packing four countries into eight days: Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia. He will be the first sitting US president to ever set foot in Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator. Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said Mongolia's contribution to the war in Iraq has been quite large for such a small country.

Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (President Bush's National Security Adviser): Mongolia's the 14th largest contributor of troops to Iraq and the third largest contributor if you compute it on a per capita basis.

GREENE: The president's visit to Mongolia promises to be mostly symbolic, but Mr. Bush will be delving into some sensitive issues during his two-day visit to Beijing. Mr. Bush plans to ask President Hu tough questions about why he's building up his military if he talks about wanting a peaceful world. And Mr. Bush plans to press the Chinese to crack down more on violations of intellectual property law. Mr. Bush has also long called on China to link its currency, the yuan, to market forces, making the yuan rise in value. Over the summer, China announced a small adjustment, but Hadley said the president expects more.

Mr. HADLEY: What they announced in July is a framework by which adjustments could be made over time to allow the two currencies to reflect market factors. There was an initial adjustment and an initial evaluation, and very little since, and I think what the president will urge is that the Chinese begin to take steps towards their own stated objective that market factors be taken into account in the valuation of their currency.

GREENE: US officials believe the Chinese currency valuation gives Chinese exporters an unfair advantage. Just yesterday, China announced its global trade balance was in surplus to the tune of $12 billion last month. But its trade with the US is even more lopsided. A record $162 billion surplus last year could approach $200 billion this year. David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

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