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By Daniel Dombey and Sarah O’Connor

Barack Obama on Monday sought to recast the US’s relationship with China, urging Asia’s rising superpower to forge deeper ties with Washington on the economy, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

Speaking at the start of two days of top-level talks between the countries on the diplomatic and economic challenges confronting them, the US president predicted that Washington’s relationship with Beijing would “shape the 21st century”.

Mr Obama depicted China as a force for progress that needed to co-operate with Washington, address global issues and respect human rights within its own borders.

But, acknowledging China’s growing influence and in a sign of shifting US priorities, the president and senior US officials did not reiterate the public calls Washington has made in the past for Beijing to allow its currency to strengthen.

“Some in China think that America will try to contain China’s ambitions; some in America think that there is something to fear in a rising China,” said Mr Obama. “I take a different view.”

The president set out a vision of the future in which the two countries would be “partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity”.

The nature of the strategic and economic talks in Washington is the result of a push to give political focus to what had been a Treasury-dominated dialogue under Mr Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, and Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, together with China’s vice-premier Wang Qishan and state councillor Dai Bingguo are participating in the talks.

Mr Dai said that the two countries were “in the same big boat that has been hit by fierce wind and huge waves, with our interests interconnected, sharing weal and woe”.

He concluded his speech by quoting Mr Obama’s campaign cry of “Yes we can”.

In spite of the rhetoric, the relationship between the US and China remains in large part defined by China’s status as the world’s biggest holder of US Treasury bonds. This status heightens Beijing’s influence over Washington and increases its exposure to the battered US economy.

Mr Obama said the countries’ top priorities should be co-operation on the economy and climate change, and combating the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea .

He praised China for “lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty” and emphasised US calls for “the religion and culture of all peoples [to] be respected and protected”.

Washington responded cautiously to recent clashes involving China’s Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. US diplomats are trying to balance a likely visit by Mr Obama to China later this year with a possible meeting between Mr Obama and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

Mr Geithner urged China to shift its economy towards domestic consumption, which he said would be a “huge contribution to more rapid, balanced and sustained global growth.”

He also said that the US would help China win greater representation at international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund.

Source: The Financial Times