Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped up a four-day US tour today with a visit to Yale University, where he sought to quell fears about the international effects of his country’s booming economy and pledged continued cooperation with the United States.
Hu, speaking before a crowd of hundreds at Yale, repeated sentiments he expressed earlier during his first US visit as president and said China is sensitive to the effects of its growth.
“We will pursue a new path to industrialisation, featuring high technology, good economic returns, low resource consumption, low environmental pollution and full use of human resources,” he said.
He answered questions from the crowd that had been submitted in advance.
Asked whether China was concerned that limiting political freedom would cause social unrest that could undermine economic growth, he said China is committed to democracy.
“China’s political system suits its economic development,” Hu said.
He opened his speech by quipping “if time could go back several decades I would really like to be a student of Yale, just like you.”
A CNN reporter was thrown out of a private reception in Yale President Richard Levin’s office earlier after he shouted a question about whether Hu had seen more than 1,000 protesters gathered on the city green.
Yale spokeswoman Helene Kalsky said the reporter was thrown out because, “We invited you to cover an event, not to hold a press conference.”
She said the event was only meant to be a photo opportunity and ceremony.
Members of the university administration and Chinese cabinet were also on hand as Hu presented four bookcases worth of books and said he wants to build on a long-standing relationship with Yale.
More than 150 years after Yale became the first US university to graduate a Chinese student, the Ivy League school has more than 80 academic collaborations with Chinese institutions and offers 26 study sites in China.
This week, China made Yale the first overseas university authorised to trade on its heavily regulated stock market, which is off-limits to most foreigners.
Protesters and supporters began gathering after 8am today outside the entrance to campus as police shut down streets and restricted parking downtown.
Dozens of police officers, some carrying riot gear, prepared for planned protests by human rights activists and members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong.
Police estimated that at least 1,000 people gathered on the city green. Some shouted anti-communist and anti-government slogans in Chinese. They denounced, by name, members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s inner circle of power.
“Falun Dafa is good!” they shouted, using another name for Falun Gong. “Down with Jiang Zemin! Down with Hu Jintao! Resolutely oppose the Communist Party!”
Pro-government demonstrators held scarlet signs in Chinese that said, “Warmly Welcome Chairman u Jintao to the United States” and “Bring China-US relations closer.” Hu is chairman and general secretary of the Communist Party.
“We are here to show our love to our country and show our enthusiasm to our president’s visit to Yale university,” said Zhou Jun, a Yale graduate student and Chinese citizen.
Security plans had called for protesters to gather on the city green, farther away from the speech and off Yale grounds, but university officials made a rare exception and allowed protests on the historic Old Campus, a block or two from the speech.
“The Chinese are concerned, but on the other hand they understand that President Hu has made a decision to come to a US university and they know that means inevitably there will be protesters,” Levin said on Wednesday.
Yale freshman Edwin Everhart, 19, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was among the protesters on the Old Campus.
“When you get within 5,000 yards of one of these bigwigs, I think it’s your responsibility as a human being to try and tell them something,” said Everhart, co-ordinator of Amnesty International at Yale, who wore a Free China headband.
“I’m here because I’m against the torture, the death penalty and nuclear weapons.”
Hu, aware of the growing US impatience with America’s record trade deficit with China, offered general promises yesterday to address the gap. But his comments were likely to do little to cool calls in Congress for punitive tariffs on Chinese products.
Levin, an economist, called such proposals “irrational,” saying they would undermine decades of work fostering free trade. He said Western investment and open markets would encourage China to improve its human rights record and allow more freedoms.
That stance puts him at odds with many union leaders, who have sharply criticised China for its monetary policy and cheap exports. But union organisers had no plans to protest Hu’s visit Friday, saying they were stretched too thin with other events and did not want to offend Yale’s many Chinese graduate students, who are key to a graduate student union campaign.
More than 300 of Yale’s 11,000 students are Chinese, making them the largest group of foreign students at the school.