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November 17, 2009

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Obama greets students in friendship

NEARLY 400 Shanghai college students took part in a town hall meeting yesterday afternoon with US President Barack Obama, who delivered friendly, encouraging messages to the generation that represents China's future.

The face-to-face dialogue is an American tradition that brings together members of a community - both leaders and ordinary people.

Yesterday, the town hall moved out of the United States and into the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. The audience featured young Chinese selected from eight local universities, including Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tongji University and the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. The event was broadcast live on the Shanghai Television News Channel.

"He (President Obama) is exciting," said Dong Liang, a graduate student in international politics at the East China University of Political Science and Law.

"President Obama was candid and sincere in his remarks about the challenges he is facing and the importance of cooperation between the US and China," Dong said. "He is friendly toward our country and gave us confidence about a better world in the future."

Before taking questions from the audience, Obama said, "We do not seek to contain China's rise. On the contrary, we welcome China as a strong and prosperous and successful member of the community of nations."

After opening remarks that lasted 10 minutes, Obama answered eight questions, three of which were selected from the more than 3,200 put forward by Chinese Internet users.

The wide-ranging queries covered Obama's expectations for his first visit to China, his stance on the one-China policy and his plans for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Calling the US-China relations "positive, constructive and comprehensive," Obama said he expected to deepen his understanding of China during his four-day trip.

He also said the US and China "share much in common" while they "are different in certain ways."

The world is fundamentally interconnected and power in the 21st century is no longer a zero-sum game, he said.

Addressing a question on the Taiwan issue, Obama said he does not want to change the US one-China policy position and is "very pleased" to see a reduction in tension and an improvement to cross-strait ties.

Starting his Chinese visit in Shanghai was also meaningful, because the so-called Shanghai Communique helped to pave the way for normalization of diplomatic relations, Obama said.

Shanghai will host the World Expo next year, a widely anticipated event that Obama said he hopes to take part in. He promised "an excellent US pavilion."

Obama also encouraged young people to work hard and respect technology and said the number of American students who study in China will be expanded to 100,000 to boost exchanges.

Ni Shixiong, a politics professor at Fudan University, said the town hall meeting was a success on the whole, though many students were disappointed they didn't get a chance to ask their own questions.

"Nearly all major issues were touched on. But it would have been better if the students had asked about economics," Ni said.

Before coming to the town hall meeting, Obama met with Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng and Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng.


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