NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Chinese President Hu Jintao wraps up his four-day U.S. tour Friday at Yale University, where he is expected to offer reassurances that China seeks a peaceful rise to economic prosperity, a theme he articulated this week at a Boeing jet plant and the White House.
During their meeting in Washington on Thursday, President Bush urged Hu to allow more fluency in China's currency and help ease the sizable trade imbalance between the two countries.
Although Bush and Hu both agreed that they had a productive meeting, U.S. critics of China's trade policies had a different view.
"The president failed to make any significant progress in talks with his Chinese counterpart," complained Kevin Kearns, the president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents around 1,500 small and medium-sized manufacturing companies.
"This really sounds like a missed opportunity," said Frank Vargo, international vice president for the National Association of Manufacturers. "We were really hoping that significant progress would be made so that both governments would begin to work together to address this very large trade imbalance."
And on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are pushing a variety of measures that would punish China for its current practices, lawmakers expressed disappointment in the outcome of Thursday's half-day summit at the White House.
"I am extremely disappointed that President Hu did not commit to take concrete steps to allow China's currency to reflect market forces," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is sponsoring legislation that would withhold certain economic benefits from China if it does not move faster on currency reform.
Hu's first U.S. visit as president was scheduled to culminate at Yale, a university with long-standing ties to China that have grown stronger in recent years.
Yale, the first U.S. university to graduate a Chinese student 150 years ago, has more than 80 academic collaborations with Chinese institutions and offers 26 study sites in China. This week, China made Yale the first overseas university authorized to trade on its heavily regulated stock market, which is off-limits to most foreigners.
Hu's visit was to begin with a private reception in President Richard Levin's office, where Hu was to present Yale with a donation of books from China.
Protesters and supporters began gathering after 8 a.m. Friday outside the entrance to campus as police shut down streets and restricted parking downtown. Yale students hurriedly searched for their classrooms, which were relocated because of Hu's visit.
Dozens of police officers, some carrying riot gear, prepared for planned protests by human rights activists and members of the spiritual movement Falun Gong. Security plans had called for protesters to gather on the city green, farther away from the speech and off Yale grounds, but university officials made a rare exception and allowed protests on the historic Old Campus, a block or two from the speech.
"The Chinese are concerned, but on the other hand they understand that President Hu has made a decision to come to a U.S. university and they know that means inevitably there will be protesters," Levin said Wednesday.
Hu, aware of the growing U.S. impatience with America's record $202 billion trade deficit with China, offered general promises Thursday to address the gap. But his comments were likely to do little to cool calls in Congress for punitive tariffs on Chinese products.
Levin, an economist, called such proposals "irrational," saying they would undermine decades of work fostering free trade. He said Western investment and open markets would encourage China to improve its human rights record and allow more freedoms.
That stance puts him at odds with many union leaders, who have sharply criticized China for its monetary policy and cheap exports. But union organizers had no plans to protest Hu's visit Friday, saying they were stretched too thin with other events and did not want to offend Yale's many Chinese graduate students, who are key to a graduate student union campaign.
More than 300 of Yale's 11,000 students are Chinese, making them the largest group of foreign students at the school.