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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Blair presses for China democracy
Tony Blair
Mr Blair is in Beijing for talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo
China's growing economic power must be matched by improvement in its record on human rights and democracy, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Following three hours of talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo, he said people wanted to know "what kind of country they are dealing with".

Mr Blair says Britain's trade with China should reach 21.7bn by 2010.

The target was set as Airbus announced orders from China for 10 A330 aircraft worth 815m.

'Enormous challenges'

Speaking after the talks, Mr Blair said he had told his Chinese counterpart that people did not "resent" China.

Mr Blair told reporters: "But they have got a question mark because they see this enormous economic power and they ask 'Will this developing economy be matched by political development and development in the field of human rights as well?'

There was no desire to escape this topic - there was a genuine sense of engagement
Tony Blair

"His answer to me was that China faced enormous challenges because you have got a relatively wealthy party of China, but many, many poor people.

"Their economic development has a long way to go but they recognise that political development can accompany that but we shall have to see how that goes."

Mr Blair, who was attending a cultural reception in the courtyard of a 16th Century former royal palace, said: "It's important, just as we understand China's need urgently to develop its economy, at the same time China has to understand that people see a new China emerging and want to know what kind of country they are dealing with.

"I think there's a genuine understanding of that concern on the Chinese side."

Opportunity knocks?

Mr Blair added: "The whole basis of the discussion I have had in a country that's developing very fast - it's going to be the second largest economy in the world very shortly - that there's an unstoppable momentum there towards greater political freedom, progress on human rights and those other issues, and I think there's an understanding that that should happen.

"Whether it does happen or not, time will tell."

Mr Blair said that unlike his previous two visits to China "there was no desire to escape this topic - there was a genuine sense of engagement".

He said the question that needed to be answered by China and the rest of the world was "do people feel threatened by China or do they see an opportunity".

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