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May 23, 2010

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Clinton tours Expo before talks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toured World Expo Shanghai yesterday at the start of a four-day China visit whose centerpiece will be talks in Beijing.

Clinton, who is spending two nights in Shanghai, and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will lead a group of 16 heads of US government agencies to meet their Chinese counterparts for a new round of Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

During the Beijing talks, the Obama administration's economic leaders will exchange views with the Chinese in four key areas, including promotion of trade and investment cooperation, strong economic recovery and more balanced growth, a resilient financial system, and strengthening of international financial and economic structures.

Yesterday, dressed in a powder blue jacket matching Expo's plump, cartoonish mascot Haibao, Clinton walked through the US and Chinese national pavilions, shaking hands, posing for pictures and talking up the importance of people-to-people ties.

At the Chinese pavilion, she gleefully greeted Haibao and at the USA pavilion she was surrounded by Chinese schoolchildren whom she praised for learning English at a young age.

Speaking after the four-hour tour, Clinton suggested the event may mark a watershed in the history of China's financial hub and most cosmopolitan city.

"It's like a coming-out party for countries and cities," Clinton told reporters. "There is a real historical significance to them doing this."

Clinton began her day at the USA Pavilion, which was a bare patch of ground less than a year ago with the United States short of money to build it and at risk of missing an event at the top of China's business and political agenda.

Thanks partly to her intervention, major US companies stepped up to the plate to fund the pavilion, whose attractions include three films highlighting the American way of life.

In one, Americans including basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson offered greetings in Chinese.


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