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Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Powell dubs China a US friend
Colin Powell (left) and Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rhongj
Powell's visit marked a big improvement in relations
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has ended the Bush administration's highest level visit to China with a pledge to build a "friendly relationship" with Beijing.

Speaking after an intense day of talks with Chinese leaders on Saturday, Mr Powell argued that the US had no reason to seek confrontation with a major trading partner.

We view China as a friend, not as an adversary

Colin Powell
He acknowledged that there were disagreements - including concerns over China's human rights record and hi-tech weapons proliferation - but stressed that these only formed part of the relationship.

"These are the things that we will talk (about) on our way through," Mr Powell told reporters.

Human rights

Mr Powell said the linchpin to their relationship was "very very common interests; economic interest, trade interest".

But the two sides have agreed to engage in a "no holds barred" human rights dialogue later this year, and to hold expert discussions on China's missile technology transfers to other countries.

Chinese soldier
The two sides agreed to resume military contacts
Mr Powell also said military-to-military contacts with Beijing would restart soon.

He stressed that Washington viewed China "as a friend not as an adversary".

The administration appears to be changing its approach, with the secretary of state taking the lead in making policy.

President George W Bush's described Beijing during his election campaign as a "strategic competitor".

The Bush administration got off to a shaky start with China. Beijing is strongly opposed to President Bush's plans for a hi-tech missile defence system.

And relations hit a new low point in April when a US spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet.

Rocky start

The US secretary of state said that when the two sides faced hurdles, such as the spy plane incident and the Nato bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade during the 1999 Kosovo crisis, they needed to "get mad, get over it and move on".

"We can't allow incidents like this to contaminate the whole relationship," Mr Powell said.

EP-3 spy plane
The spy plane row damaged relations
US officials indicated that human rights discussions did not top the agenda this time.

Nor did Mr Powell, in his talks with Chinese President Jiang Zemin or Prime Minister Zhu Rhongji, raise the case of the three academics with US connections who were expelled by China this week.

A Western diplomat in Beijing said Mr Powell had "put a human face on the Bush administration".

The secretary of state is now on his way to Australia for the final leg of his five-nation Asia-Pacific tour.

See also:

27 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Bittersweet' return for China-US scholar
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul's fears over Bush
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush rules out North Korea talks
30 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Powell mends bridges in Asia
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