President Hu Jintao was welcomed to the White House on Wednesday with full honors that included a 21-gun salute and red-carpet greeting as he and his US counterpart Barack Obama seek to open a new chapter in Sino-US relations.
Hu pulled up to the White House as part of a highly choreographed arrival, complete with welcomes from Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and their wives and a long line of Cabinet members and dignitaries.
Hu and Obama stood to attention as a military band played both national anthems.
The two leaders reviewed troops on the South Lawn, then approached a rope line where they shook hands and greeted a group of children and young people holding Chinese and US flags.
In his speech, Hu pledged a new chapter in “cooperation as partners”.
“China and the United States share broad common interests and important common responsibilities,” Hu said.
He said the two countries should adopt a long-term perspective, seek common ground while reserving differences, and work together to achieve sustained, sound and steady development of relations.
“I hope that through this visit, our two countries will advance the positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship and open a new chapter in our cooperation as partners,” Hu said.
To that end, Hu suggested that partnership should be based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, joint efforts to meet challenges and extensive involvement of people.
“China and the US should respect each other’s choice of development path and each other’s core interests,” Hu said.
Obama, in a welcome speech, also touted US-China relations: “We have an enormous stake in each other’s success.
“Even as our nations compete in some areas, we can cooperate in others,” he said.
“What Deng Xiaoping said long ago remains true today: there are still great possibilities for cooperation between our countries,” Obama said.
The last 30 years of relations were marked by continued exchanges and increased mutual understanding, he said, before adding that Hu’s visit serves to lay the foundation for deeper prosperity between their two nations in the next 30 years.
Obama concluded his speech in Chinese: huanying (welcome).
As Hu was greeted with the spectacular ceremony, the White House announced on Wednesday that China will purchase $45 billion in US exports, including a $19 billion deal for 200 Boeing airplanes.
In addition to the Boeing deal, China will also invest in US exports from agriculture, telecommunications and technology companies, including General Electric, Honeywell and Navistar. The White House said the deals will support up to 235,000 jobs in the US.
Hu was at the White House for a day of meetings on security, trade, economic and other matters. Capping the day will be a lavish, pomp-filled state dinner, only the third of Obama’s two-year presidency – he held state dinners for India in 2009 and for Mexico last year.
There has been a lot of attention and curiosity on who will attend the event.
In addition to the predictable Cabinet members such as Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Judy Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to the US Congress, is expected to attend.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has told the media that she was invited to the dinner. Inaugurated on Jan 3, Quan became Oakland’s first female mayor, as well as the first Asian-American woman to head a major US city. “I am very honored,” Quan said of the invitation.
John Chen, chairman of the Committee of 100, has also been confirmed to attend the state dinner, committee public relations director Ping An told China Daily.
The committee is a national organization composed of American citizens of Chinese descent. Its members hold leadership positions in a wide range of professions.
US media have reported that some top US bankers have been fighting for an invitation to the state dinner.
“Sources say top bank executives lobbied the West Wing nonstop for seats and the chance to win favor with the world’s rising economic power,” according to Ben White, a reporter of Politico.com.
A personal relationship between Hu and Obama is important for cooperation on several pressing issues, Asia watchers said.
“The only way you can move policy is at the very top, and it requires a personal connection,” Victor Cha, director of Asian affairs on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council and currently a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AP.
“Maybe this visit is an opportunity to create some of that.”
For each of the state dinners, Michelle Obama, the first lady who is responsible for planning them with the White House social secretary, hired a guest chef to help prepare the meal.
For the Mexico state dinner, the first couple hired chef Rick Bayless, a personal favorite of theirs but also a recognized TV face who specializes in Mexican cuisine. For the Indian state dinner they chose Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson of New York’s Aquavit restaurant, another popular TV face.
But no one knows who is going to be the guest chef to cook for Hu this time.
Hu was welcomed on arrival Tuesday afternoon by US Vice-President Joe Biden at Andrews Air Force Base, where US military officers rolled out a red carpet and gave full military honors, complete with a brass band, to the Chinese leader.
Hu then went to the White House for an unusual and intimate dinner in the Old Family Dining Room.
Obama held the 3+3 highly private dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon on the US side, and State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the Chinese side.
Underscoring the desire for candor, the White House said there were no official note-takers at the dinner and offered no readout of the discussions.
Obama and Hu reviewed progress made on bilateral ties, and said they are ready to further advance the positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship, according to a Foreign Ministry press release after the dinner.
Tan Yingzi, Li Xiaokun, Cheng Guangjin, AP and Reuters contributed to this story.