Change tugs at US-China ties ahead of Hu visit
China's President Hu Jintao has set out for the United States at a time of flux and stress in Sino-US ties, with America weakened by crisis and Beijing flexing a new range of powers.
Hu headed to the United States yesterday, the foreign ministry in Beijing said.
And while US President Barack Obama will lay on the pageantry of a state visit after Hu arrives later in the day, tensions on human rights, currency rates and North Korea, as well as military mistrust, are wobbling the key relationship.
Obama and Hu also both face domestic political puzzles that could stress ties between the world's top power and its fastest growing one.
America is scarred by a financial meltdown and its slow recovery. A power transfer is meanwhile looming in China, where economic and military expansions have uncorked new challenges for communist leaders.
Hu's state visit will likely be his last before a Chinese leadership transition is complete by 2013 and will have US officials seeking a glimpse into the next era of relations with Beijing.
"America and China have arrived at a critical juncture, a time when the choices we make, big and small, will shape the trajectory of this relationship," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week.
In the past, US presidents framed their efforts as peacefully managing China's emergence into the world economy and global diplomatic system.
But that once far-off day when China would take its place among the great powers has already arrived, making Obama's task more complex.
Obama's first move in China-US relations was to seek cooperation across a broad range of issues, from climate change to economic disputes, which sparked talk of a new G2 grouping of dominant powers.