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Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Albright arrives in China
US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, arrives in China
US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, arrives in China

As the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, arrives in China, the BBC Beijing Correspondent Duncan Hewitt looks ahead at how far human rights is really on the agenda for China, and whether China is likely to tolerate what it sees as US interference over Tibet:

For China, the main aim of Madeleine Albright's trip is to finalise preparations for the late June visit by President Clinton, the first by a US leader since before the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989.

Beijing sees this as an important landmark not just in emphasising the new era of co-operation between the two countries but also in confirming its growing role in the mainstream of international affairs.

wang dan 150
Wang Dan: urges Albright to increase pressure on the release on political prisoners
China's recent announcement that it will sign the UN's main human rights covenant and the release last week of the 1989 student leader, Wang Dan, have been seen as part of a concerted campaign to defuse the issue of human rights in its relations with the US.

But China would prefer to focus on economic issues, in particular its battle to win US support for its bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

Beijing is also likely to seek Mrs Albright's reassurance that the guidelines on defence co-operation which she signed in Tokyo will not allow Japan to become involved in any potential conflict over Taiwan. Meahwhile China is seeking to downplay controversy over allegations of missile transfers to Pakistan.

Yet differences could surface, particularly over the issue of Tibet. There are reports that Washington may seek to increase pressure on China over its human rights record there. Mrs Albright's party includes the administration's new co-ordinator for Tibetan affairs, Gregory Craig, whose appointment has been strongly criticised by Beijing.

But both sides will be hoping to keep any such differences within a framework of dialogue and co-operation.

See also:

09 Feb 98 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests more dissidents
04 Jun 98 | Asia-Pacific
Freed Chinese dissident arrives in US
29 Apr 98 | Asia-Pacific
Dissident raises the stakes
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