Summers was not shunted to lower-level aids who were unable to make decisions, but met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and with Bernanke's counterpart Zhou Xiaochuan, the head of the People's Bank of China. The Chinese went out of their way to achieve an atmosphere of friendliness. Here's a selection from the Reauters' report of the meeting:
BEIJING, Sept 8 (Reuters) - China and the United States said on Wednesday that their sometimes rocky relationship is sounder after talks in Beijing, with both putting an optimistic face on ties that have been jolted by economic and security tensions....
"I've heard your discussions have gone well. I'm sure that this visit will certainly enhance mutual communication and mutual trust," Hu told them at the start of the talks, while reporters were briefly allowed in the meeting room....
"Our discussions have been productive, detailed, far-reaching -- covering the full range of security and economic issues," said Donilon, who was seated next to Hu.
A senior military official also said he hoped to keep dialogue with the United States open. The remark was unusually positive for the People's Liberation Army which was incensed when the Obama administration approved a massive arms sale to Taiwan at the start of the year.
We won't know for some time whether Summers got enough economic concessions from China to save the American economic recovery, or whether he was bought off by friendly words and treatment. My guess is that he was bought off and that the U.S. China trade deficit will continue to widen, though I do expect the yuan to strengthen by some miniscule amount, perhaps 1%.
Disclosure: I own Chinese yuan through CYB