WASHINGTON - The United States faces a tense week in China as high-level talks on trade and global hot spots like Iran and North Korea open in the shadow of a blind Chinese activist's bold escape from house arrest to seek US protection in Beijing.

The trip to Beijing would have been challenging for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner even without a human rights dispute over Chen Guangcheng, who a US-based group says is hiding in the US Embassy in Beijing.

The May 3-4 Strategic & Economic Dialogue is the last of such annual consultations before political seasons heat up in the United States and China, giving leaders in both countries less flexibility over contentious economic and security issues.

The United States goes into full campaign mode for the November presidential election, while China's ruling Communist Party enters a leadership transition in the fall that has been complicated by a scandal that toppled senior leader Bo Xilai.

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