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Clinton, Geithner in China for talks

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Washington, D.C. Today, both officials are in China, but the focus is mostly on one Chinese dissident.

Jeremy Hobson: We'll start in China, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are this morning. They're supposed to be talking about issues like trade. But instead, everyone's focused on a blind Chinese dissident who took refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing and is now asking for asylum in the United States.

Marketplace China Correspondent Rob Schmitz joins us now from Shanghai with more on this. Hi Rob.

Rob Schmitz: Hey Jeremy.

Hobson:  So how is this going to affect these high-level talks between the U.S. and China that are going on today?

Schmitz: Well, you know, it's certainly managed to steal much of the media's attention. This year -- like previous ones -- the focus of these talks, from the U.S. side at least, is on things like China's currency and securing intellectual property rights for U.S. companies in China.

But now we've got this very interesting and fast-moving drama that's forcing both sides to really take a stand that neither of them really want to take.

I spoke with James McGregor today. He's a senior counselor at APCO worldwide and he's been briefing U.S. officials in preparation for this week's summit. He told me he thought the Chen episode threatens to overshadow the talks this week in Beijing.

James McGregor: You have to remember, these talks are a lot of theatrics, because you've got 200 officials on each side giving set piece speeches and scratching around for a deliverable or two so they can put out a press release at the end.

But, Jeremy I don't think anybody's expecting a a press release at the end of this week about human rights or Chen Guangcheng.

Hobson: And Rob, of course, this situation comes right after the Bo Xilai case, about this Chinese official who had sort of fallen out of favor with the top leadership in Beijing; then his wife gets accused of murdering a British businessman. Seems like a lot of uncomfortable stuff going on for the top leadership in China?

Schmitz: That's right, and at a year when the leadership in Beijing is changing over to a completely new leadership, I think we're all waiting to see how this year could get possibly even crazier.

Hobson: Marketplace China correspondent Rob Schmitz joining us from Shanghai. Thanks, Rob.

Schmitz: Thanks, Jeremy.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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