CLINTON IS ALL BUSINESS

In China, Clinton Is All Business – NYTimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/world/asia/24diplo.html?hp

SHANGHAI — With a Boeing 737 flown by China Eastern Airlines as a backdrop, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday urged China to open up its markets and better protect intellectual property rights, setting the tone for three days of high-level economic and security talks in Beijing.

“American companies want to compete in China,” Mrs. Clinton said. “They want to sell goods made by American workers to Chinese consumers with rising incomes and increasing demand.”

To do that, she said, the United States needs a “level playing field where domestic and international companies can compete freely and openly.” Without singling out China, she called for transparency in rule-making, greater market access and no discrimination in government contracts.

Mrs. Clinton said questions of economic balance and competition would be high on the agenda at the so-called strategic and economic dialogue, to be held Sunday evening in Beijing. She and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner are leading a delegation of nearly 200 U.S. officials.

“We are seeking a win-win situation for our two countries,” she said, speaking in a cavernous hangar where Boeing, the U.S. aerospace giant, operates a maintenance center with Shanghai Airlines and the Shanghai airport authority.

China is Boeing’s largest market outside the United States, with 450 orders for planes from fast-growing carriers like China Eastern Airlines, which is headquartered in Shanghai. But Boeing, which buys parts from Chinese suppliers, is facing greater competition from Airbus, the European consortium. Airbus opened a final assembly plant, its first outside Europe, in the industrial city of Tianjin in 2009.

On Saturday, Mrs. Clinton visited the U.S. pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, where she got a rousing cheer from a group of Chinese children. By all accounts, the United States would have been a no-show at the expo had she not opened her Rolodex and called upon her supporters to raise $60 million in private cash to finance the U.S. exhibit.

But the house that Mrs. Clinton built is unmistakably the house that corporate America paid for.

After touring the pavilion — with its Citibank and Pfizer-sponsored theaters, gauzy eight-minute videos featuring representatives from Chevron, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson, an exhibit hall emblazoned with more brand names, and a gift shop with licensed merchandise from Disney — she seemed less inspired than relieved that the project was done.

“It’s fine,” she said to a reporter asking her what she thought of the pavilion. “Can you imagine if we had not been here?”

With its gunmetal-gray walls and convention-center aesthetics, the pavilion hardly stands out in a fairground studded by beguiling structures like Britain’s Seed Cathedral, a cube with 60,000 sprouting transparent rods that make it look like a dandelion ready to be scattered to the winds.

Still, the organizers of the U.S. pavilion say it has drawn long lines and 700,000 visitors since the expo opened on May 1, which attests either to the enduring attraction of the United States or the wisdom of Woody Allen’s observation that 80 percent of success is showing up.

For Mrs. Clinton, scratching together the money for the project was a simple matter of avoiding a diplomatic snub. The Chinese government spent $45 billion buffing up this glamorous but gritty metropolis to play host to the world fair, and they are treating the six-month- long event with almost the same importance they attached to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The participation of the United States was in jeopardy because Congress restricts the spending of public money on world fairs, and under the administration of President George W. Bush, the project had virtually no private financing.

On Mrs. Clinton’s first visit as secretary of state last year, Chinese officials implored her to do something.

“It’s like a coming-out party for countries and cities,” Mrs. Clinton said, referring to world fairs of the last century in Chicago and St. Louis. “There’s a real historical significance to this.”

To avoid violating U.S. government rules, Mrs. Clinton assigned most of the one-on-one fund-raising to two longtime Clinton fund-raisers: Elizabeth F. Bagley and Jose H. Villarreal, both of whom were on hand.

As she walked into the U.S. pavilion on Saturday morning, Mrs. Clinton greeted Indra K. Nooyi, the chief executive of PepsiCo, and senior executives from Chevron, GE and Johnson & Johnson, each of which kicked in $5 million for the exhibit.

She met major sponsors again at a dinner on Saturday night.

Mrs. Clinton also toured China’s pavilion, a monumental deep-red building with a traditional Chinese inverted roof. “It would have to be very big to fit all the provinces of China in it,” she told Shanghai’s mayor, Han Zheng, who thanked her for making sure the United States had a presence.

Nearly 200 countries are represented at the Expo, which stretches along both banks of the Huangpu River. Two countries branded as rogue nations, Iran and North Korea, are conveniently located next to each other.

Among the North Korean attractions was a video of a rocket launching intercut with pictures of children in a classroom.

Iran has gathered examples of its technology, including a satellite and what was identified as the country’s first cloned goat, which had been stuffed. “Only a few countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada, and China have a cloned goat in their list of achievements,” a placard said.

Neither country made any mention of its nuclear program, which in both cases is fueling tensions with their neighbors and Washington. But then, the United States’ pavilion does not mention the U.S. political system, the Constitution or the country’s founders.

Instead, visitors are treated to a video of Americans struggling to speak Chinese, testimonials about sustainable energy, water conservation and family values — each presented by a corporate sponsor with interest in those areas — followed by a video about a young girl planting a garden in a garbage-strewn lot.

At one point, the seats shake and the audience is sprayed with mist.

The highlight at the pavilion is 70 student ambassadors, drawn from universities around the United States, who speak fluent Mandarin and entertain the long lines of visitors.

Franklin L. Lavin, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore who is the chairman of the pavilion’s steering committee, said the organizers steered clear of messages about free speech or democratic institutions in favor of the simple virtues of civic-mindedness.

“We wanted to talk about what works in American society, not what doesn’t work in other societies,” Mr. Lavin said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: