Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Powell said the meeting between Hu and President Obama resulted in some successful trade deals; however, it probably would not do much to alter Beijing's human-right policies.
"They are going to remain an authoritarian nation," Powell said. "They believe that's the only way they can run a nation of 1.3 billion people, and they haven't done badly in recent years."
Powell observed that both leaders presented their viewpoints in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which he predicted would particularly benefit Hu.
"He goes home looking like he preserved his positions," Powell said. "Both sides came out of this I think rather well."
Powell called the U.S. relationship with China "complex" and guaranteed to have its ups and downs. "But I think generally over the 40 years that we have been in this relationship with China, the slope has been steady and upward."