BEIJING—Chinese President Hu Jintao emphasized the need for cooperation with the U.S. in areas from new energy to space ahead of his visit to Washington this week, but he called the present U.S. dollar-dominated currency system a "product of the past" and highlighted moves to turn the yuan into a global currency.
"We both stand to gain from a sound China-U.S. relationship, and lose from confrontation," Hu said in written answers to questions from The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Hu acknowledged "some differences and sensitive issues between us," but his tone was generally compromising, and he avoided specific mention of some of the controversial issues that have dogged relations with the U.S. over the past year or so—including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan that led to a freeze in military relations between the world's sole superpower and its rising Asian rival.
On the economic front, Hu played down one of the main U.S. arguments for why China should appreciate its currency—that it will help China tame inflation. That is likely to disappoint Washington, which accuses China of unfairly boosting its exports by undervaluing the yuan, making its products cheaper overseas. The topic is expected to be high on U.S. President Barack Obama's agenda when he meets Hu at the White House on Wednesday.
Hu also offered a veiled criticism of efforts by the U.S. Federal Reserve to stimulate growth through huge bond purchases to keep down long-term interest rates, a strategy that China has loudly complained about in the past as fueling inflation in emerging economies, including its own. He said that U.S. monetary policy "has a major impact on global liquidity and capital flows and therefore, the liquidity of the U.S. dollar should be kept at a reasonable and stable level."
Hu's responses reflect a China that has grown more confident in recent years—especially in the wake of the global financial crisis, from which it emerged relatively unscathed.
Hu reiterated China's belief that the crisis reflected "the absence of regulation in financial innovation" and the failure of international financial institutions "to fully reflect the changing status of developing countries in the world economy and finance." He called for an international financial system that is more "fair, just, inclusive and well-managed."