Hu says China not a military threat to any nation

Chinese President Hu Jintao sought to assure U.S. business leaders on Thursday that his country is an economic partner and not a military threat to America or anyone else. But he rejected foreign interference on issues such as Tibet and Taiwan.

“We will remain committed to the path of peaceful development,” Hu told a U.S.-China Business Council luncheon. “We do not engage in an arms race, we are not a military threat to any country. China will never seek to dominate or pursue an expansionist policy.”

Hu said China intended to “develop a socialist democracy and build a socialist country under the rule of law.”

His luncheon comments, the final event on his state visit to Washington, followed closed-door sessions with members of Congress, where he drew criticism for his country’s human rights and other policies.

President Barack Obama had expressed similar human rights concerns a day earlier at the White House.

Thursday’s midday session, attended by business executives whose companies have dealings within China, provided a far friendlier audience than Hu had found at the Capitol.

He touched on some of the issues that have sharply divided the United States and China, declaring that the two countries must deal with each other as equals “based on mutual respect and mutual benefits.”

“Taiwan and Tibet-related issues concern Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hu said. “They touch upon the national sentiments of 1.3 billion Chinese.” It was a reference to China’s claim to the currently self-governing island of Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, and to Tibet, which is already under China’s control. U.S. leaders, including Obama, have irked China repeatedly by meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.