Obama seeks Chinese help

President Barack Obama is walking a tightrope on his first trip to China, seeking to enlist help in tackling urgent global problems while weighing when and how — or if — he should raise traditional human rights concerns.

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama

SHANGHAI, China — President Barack Obama is walking a tightrope on his first trip to China, seeking to enlist help in tackling urgent global problems while weighing when and how — or if — he should raise traditional human rights concerns.

Obama arrived in Shanghai late at night, in a driving rain, hustling through a phalanx of umbrella-holding dignitaries to reach his limousine.

Today, the president is holding talks with local politicians and, in one of the marquee events of his weeklong Asian trip, conducting an American-style town hall discussion with Chinese university students.

Thirty years after the start of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the ties are growing — but remain mixed on virtually every front.

The two nations are partnering more than ever on battling global warming, but they still differ deeply over hard targets for reductions in the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause it.

China has supported sterner sanctions to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but it still balks at getting more aggressive about reining in Iran’s uranium enrichment.

China is a huge and lucrative market for American goods and services, and yet it has a giant trade deficit with the U.S. that, like a raft of other economic issues, is a bone of contention between the two governments.

Obama recognizes that a rising China, as the world’s third-largest economy on the way to becoming the second and the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, has shifted the dynamic more toward one of equals.

One test of the line Obama is walking on China will be human rights, including religious freedom in the officially atheist nation. Aides said in advance that Obama would raise several human rights issues privately with Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao.

But it was unlikely he would repeat those messages too stridently in public.