BEIJING - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in China on Wednesday for top-level talks that risk being upstaged by the fate of a blind dissident whose supporters say is under US protection in Beijing after escaping house arrest.
Washington has not even commented on the whereabouts of the dissident, legal activist Chen Guangcheng, whose plight has overshadowed the Strategic and Economic Dialogue due to begin on Thursday. The United States hopes the talks will encourage greater Chinese cooperation on trade as well over Iran, Syria, North Korea and other international disputes.
Chen's friends and supporters have said he is probably inside the fortress-like US embassy in northeast Beijing.
The official silence about his fate from both Washington and Beijing has shown their eagerness to contain friction over his case. Relations could easily go awry, especially with the ruling Communist Party wrestling with a leadership scandal and a looming power succession.