Politics Aside, in China It's Business as Usual

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With domestic politics driving both sides to hang tough, Madeleine Albright gave little and got little in Beijing. But for both the U.S. and China, her two-day visit, which concluded Tuesday, served a political purpose: "The White House is under tremendous pressure on Capitol Hill to get tough with China," says TIME Beijing bureau chief Jaime Florcruz. "But the Chinese leadership is also under pressure from its own hard-liners, who feel that Beijing has given away too much in its relations with Washington. So both sides had to maintain a hard line, and the atmosphere was pretty bad."

With the political exchange over for now, the two sides will get on with the business that binds them together -- business. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky arrives Wednesday to hammer out the details of agreements on trade issues, such as China's bid to join the World Trade Organization. "The obstacles there," says Florcruz, "are less about human rights than about the massive imbalance of U.S.-China trade in Beijing's favor, and opening access to China's markets." Albright played bad cop; it's up to Barshefsky to cut a deal.