In China, Bush juggles sports and diplomacy

The president’s comments in support of human rights before he arrived Thursday in Beijing “really made China uncomfortable,” said Yan Xuetong, an international relations expert at Beijing’s Qinghua University. “But compared with his attending the Olympic Games, the profit is much larger than the loss,” Yan said.

On Sunday, the president and first lady Laura Bush worshiped at a Christian church. “No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion,” Bush said afterward on the steps of the government-approved Beijing Kuanjie Protestant Christian Church.

Many Chinese worship at unofficial underground churches subject to frequent government harassment.

At a lunchtime meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Bush told him, “China will be a better place if there is more freedom of religion,” said Dennis Wilder, the National Security Council’s director for Asian Affairs.

I know many believe the president should have boycotted the Olympics, but I am sure glad he went. It gave another opportunity for him to discuss human rights and freedom of religion with Hu Jintao. It also was helpful that he was there with Putin and able to address the current Russia/Georgia conflict.

I don’t know if anyone caught the interview with Bob Costas. It was very good - both the questions and the responses.

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