Thursday, December 14, 2006

China pushes back against Paulson

The U.S. is trying to press free-market goals on the world's most populous country. But Chinese leaders have their own ideas, as Fortune's Nina Easton reports.

Beijing (FORTUNE) -- Senior U.S. officials, led by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, arrived inside the Stalinist-style Great Hall of the People Thursday morning, briefed and breakfasted and eager to offer guidance to Chinese leaders on how to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the global economy.

But Vice Premier Wu Yi had other ideas. Like an impatient schoolmistress, she opened this historic gathering with a lecture to the Americans. Her talk was one part history lesson (China's has 5,000 years experience as a global citizen) and one part 21st century civics lesson (the goal is a "socialist harmonious society"), with no sign that her regime sees any need for major economic reform.

"We have had the genuine feeling that some American friends are not only having limited knowledge of, but harboring much misunderstanding about, the reality in China," she began, striking a less than diplomatic note. "This is not conducive to the sound development of our bilateral relations."

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