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China Pledges Help On Eurozone Crisis

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (center), European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (left), and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso hold a press conference in Beijing on February 14.
China has pledged to help resolve the eurozone's debt crisis, but has publicly offered few details.

The pledge was made at a summit on February 14 between China and the European Union in Beijing.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said China, a leading economic partner of the EU, was willing to "increase its involvement" in attempts to stabilize debt-stricken EU nations.

But he made no specific promise to invest in a European bailout fund.

"China's desire to support the EU's dealing with the European debt crisis is sincere and determined, and [China] remains confident in the euro and Europe's economy," Wen said.

"China supports the EU's strengthening financial discipline and hopes Europe continues to send clear and beneficial, positive news."

China holds the world's largest foreign-exchange reserves, and EU leaders have been seeking some of that money to bolster a planned emergency fund of about 500 billion euros ($660 billion).

Ahead of the EU-China summit, Moody's ratings agency on February 13 lowered its credit ratings for Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, and Slovakia, and gave a "negative" outlook for France, Britain, and Austria.

Speaking alongside Wen, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters that it was "up to China to make its own decision in order to contribute to the stability of the eurozone."

"We welcome the positive attitude and engagement China and Premier Wen himself have taken publicly towards the stability of the eurozone and the European Union," Van Rompuy said.

"We also welcome China's readiness to enhance consultation and cooperation on the stability of the eurozone."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for cooperation, saying the economic destinies of Europe and China were "interconnected."

"Europe can only rejoice [at China's] success," Barroso said. "And I also believe that Europe can legitimately claim some part of this success because China's economy has greatly benefited from Europe's open policies and open markets."

Talking To China

Europe is China's biggest trading partner, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned last week that a recession in Europe could halve China's growth rate.

In a move to stave off bankruptcy, Greek lawmakers early this week passed a package of harsh new austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF.

The vote was crucial for the country to secure a 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout and avoid default next month.

The severe cuts, however, have proved deeply unpopular and caused riots in Athens.

Van Rompuy also called on February 14 for improved market access for European companies in China and for improved protection of intellectual property rights in the country.

Foreign firms frequently complain that China favors domestic companies and squeezes them out of some markets.

Van Rompuy also urged Beijing to act more aggressively on forcing Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program and back the UN Security Council on Syria.

He said human rights in China were discussed -- although he did not give specifics.

Wen said China was willing to discuss human rights but "such a dialogue should be carried out on the basis of mutual respect and objectivity in order to build further trust."

China's Vice President In U.S.

Elsewhere, U.S. President Barack Obama is due to meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Washington on February 14.

Xi is expected to take over as head of the ruling Communist Party later this year and the presidency a year later.

Analysts say Chinese officials see Xi's trip to Washington as an important test on the world stage.

Xi is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the White House since Obama launched a new U.S. "pivot" toward Asia in November to counterbalance China's increasing assertiveness in the region.

Obama's aides see the visit yielding few, if any, formal agreements. Rather, they expect the leaders to get to know one another.

Compiled from agency reports

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