Obama-Hu summit more than just another game of Chinese checkers

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are hanging out together all day and tonight, talking about the weather, human rights, core interests, development paths, trade, security, and why chop suey really should be eaten with a spoon instead of chopsticks.

They also are meeting with execs from leading Americans companies to discuss investment and who they like in the Bob Hope Desert Classic.

Tonight they’re attending a black-tie dinner at the White House where cheesesteaks and fries won’t be on the menu but perhaps cats and dogs will be.

Of course, China sure has evolved. It wasn’t that long ago when Mao was running the place that the country was as insulated as a hothouse orchid.

Now the Chinese span the globe as an economic colossus. China and the U.S. do $400 billion in trade annually. And China seems drawn like cold hands to a fire when it comes to U.S. investment.

When Hu arrived in Washington, he brought more than a change of underwear. China has agreed to $45 billion in trade and investment contracts with U.S. companies and has made a series of other trade-related concessions as part of his visit. The impending deals are estimated to support some 235,000 U.S. jobs. With the American economy hardly as spectacular as Chinese fireworks, that is a firecracker big deal.

And Beijing has promised to improve the business climate in China for U.S. companies, like purchasing legal software for starters and cracking down on widespread software piracy. China also said it would allow the use of more imported technology and give foreign companies a more even playing field to compete for government contracts at both the national and provincial levels.

Which is leaving Americans spongy with hope that perhaps the Chinese aren’t so bad after all.

Not so fast my friends. While we need China almost as much as oxygen these days, there is that little matter of human rights. This has been a sore subject for years between the two nations, a hurt that continually slides into the U.S. like a drawer being closed. And rightfully so. The Chinese stomp on their citizens like driver ants. I guess when you have so many people, you tend to treat them like disposable parts.

We keep scolding the Chinese about human rights and Obama brought it up to Hu again today, even though the point of contention now is so old it’s all veins and arthritis.

The Chinese aren’t going to change. But we need their change.