strong China welcome

BEIJING - US President Barack Obama told Chinese students yesterday he did not fear their nation's rise, ahead of talks on trade imbalances and currency strains that underline the sometimes tense embrace between the two giants.

Testy exchanges between the biggest and third biggest economies continued as Obama began his first visit to China on Sunday. The Chinese government rebuffed calls for the yuan currency to appreciate, a step Obama has urged to correct imbalances in the global economy.

But the US president maintained a reassuring tone at a students' forum in Shanghai, with the mostly gentle questions providing little scope for political hardball.

"We do not seek to contain China's rise," he said. "We welcome China as a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations."

Obama also used the forum to champion Internet freedom and human rights on the first day of his trip. But he did not mention Tibet or other sensitive issues that could have drawn ire ahead of talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing.

"These freedoms of expression and worship, of access to information and political participation, they should be available to all people including ethnic and religious minorities."

"I'm a big supporter of not restricting Internet use. The more open we are, the more we can communicate. It also draws the world together." - Reuters