Human Rights Disagreements Cloud Opening Of U.S.-China Dialogue

While urging more cooperation with China, senior U.S. officials Monday repeatedly stressed differences over human rights, reflecting a harder line from the Obama administration on a major disagreement between the two economic powers.

In opening remarks at the third U.S./China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We worry about the impact on our domestic politics and on the politics and stability in China and the region. We see reports of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists and others who are detained or disappeared."

Vice President Joe Biden also addressed the opening, noting that "We have vigorous disagreements over human rights," adding, "I recognize that some in China see our advocacy in human rights as an intrusion and, Lord only knows, what else. But President Obama and I believe strongly, as does the secretary, that protecting fundamental rights and freedom such as those enshrined in China's international commitments as well as in China's own constitution is the best way to promote long-term stability and prosperity."

Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo, however, countered, noting the "enormous progress" China has made, "including on human rights."

Clinton called for continued economic cooperation with China, saying "fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific."