Against the backdrop of the historic city of Xian, once the start of the old "Silk Road" linking East and West, he declared: "A new day is dawning for the Chinese people." His carefully crafted speech was pitched both at his sensitive mainland hosts and American critics of his visit.
"Respect for the worth, the dignity, the potential and the freedom of every citizen, is a vital source of America's strength and success," he said. "A commitment to providing all human beings the opportunity to develop their full potential is vital to the strength and success of the `new China' as well."
For the time being, new China was sticking to some of its well-entrenched old ways. Within hours of Air Force One touching down in Xian, the US had expressed disquiet to the Chinese authorities over reports of dissidents being taken into custody by police in Xian and elsewhere in China.
Tonight, Mr Clinton flies to the Chinese capital for a summit meeting tomorrow with President Jiang Zemin, and then travels on to Shanghai, Guilin, and Hong Kong.
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