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China's deal for Chen Guangcheng: latest signal of desire for better US ties

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The latest far-ranging talks between China and the US appear to have gone smoothly. They took place in Beijing last week between a large American delegation led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their Chinese partners. A smiling President Hu Jintao, together with heir-apparent Xi Jinping, showed up at the meetings, although the talks had not included Mr. Hu’s head-of-state counterpart, Mr. Obama.

There were positive signs that these bilateral discussions could lead to better Sino-American relations on several fronts: political, economic, and military. The Chinese leadership, displaying unusual friendliness, showed that Zhongnanhai, the “Chinese Kremlin,” had obviously appreciated the manner in which US officials had handled the sensitive Bo Xilai affair.

In February, the US consulate in Chengdu had obligingly handed over Wang Lijun, the “defecting,” powerful, and well-informed Chongqing police chief. Mr. Wang had told American officials that he feared for his life from Bo Xilai’s leadership, which Wang was exposing as deeply corrupt.

The American consulate, after all, could have used Wang to embarrass the top Chinese leadership by publishing transcripts of what he told the Americans. Yet the consulate declined to do so. Instead, the US officials immediately turned Wang over to the Chinese authorities. And Mr. Bo was soon ousted.

Beijing’s handling of the Bo affair itself indicates a more reform-minded leadership, with great possible openness to warmer US relations.

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