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JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

We'll start today in China, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the final sprint of her week-long dash across Asia.

She's meeting with women and leaders of civil society in Beijing before heading home from her first trip as the nation's top diplomat. Diplomatic is not the word human-rights activists are using to describe the new secretary of state's priorities in China. In a few minutes, we'll talk to one of them.

Clinton said pressing China too hard on human rights could get in the way of a much broader American agenda, from the economy to climate change.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports from Beijing.

MICHELE KELEMEN: This is the stop where the secretary's new climate-change envoy, Todd Stern, joined her at center stage.

Mr. TODD STERN (Special Envoy for Climate Change): There is no way to preserve a safe and livable planet unless China plays a very important role along with the United States. This is not a matter of politics or morality or right or wrong. It is simply the unforgiving math of accumulating emissions.

KELEMEN: Stern joined Secretary Clinton on a tour of a low-emissions power plant in Beijing, a plant that uses technology from G.E.

Mr. STERN: It's a co-generation, combined-cycle plant, not only produces electricity but captures the heat that would otherwise, and heats a million homes in Beijing, including the U.S. embassy. It's creative, it's effective, and it's profitable.

KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton, who spent much of the rest of the day in formal meetings, seemed pleased to get out and talk to some of the students gathered at the plant to hear her address the issue of clean energy and how that could help China develop.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (United States Department of State): We want China to grow. What we hope is that you won't make the same mistakes we made because I don't think either China or the world can afford that.

KELEMEN: This is the sort of dialogue she's trying to promote in U.S.-China relations. In one very candid moment on the trip, she told reporters traveling with her that she didn't want the same old disputes about human rights to interfere.

Sec. CLINTON: We know we're going to press them, you know, to reconsider their position about Tibetan religious and cultural freedom, and we know what they're going to say because I've had those conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders.

KELEMEN: Her comments as secretary of state were a far cry from remarks she made on a visit here in 1995 as first lady, in a powerful speech on human rights at a conference on women.

Her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, seemed to welcome the change.

Mr. YANG JIECHI (Chinese Foreign Minister): (Through translator) I said that given our differences in history, social system and culture, it is only natural that our two countries may have some different views on human rights.

KELEMEN: Yang and Clinton said they spoke about human rights, but it seemed to be only in passing. They focused, instead, on the plans for an economic and strategic dialogue they're preparing. Chinese authorities, meantime, were said to be keeping a close watch on dissidents and not letting some leave their houses while Secretary Clinton is here.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Beijing.

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