News / Asia

Chinese Leader Wraps Up US Visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao, second from right, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, right, visit a classroom at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, 12 Jan 2011
Chinese President Hu Jintao, second from right, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, right, visit a classroom at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, 12 Jan 2011

Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped his four-day visit to the United States Friday in the central U.S. city of Chicago, where he visited a school that offers an intensive Chinese culture and language program.  

Students from a local elementary school welcomed Mr. Hu to Walter Payton College Prep with a traditional Chinese handkerchief dance.  

It was one of the final events before Mr. Hu boarded a plane back to China Friday afternoon, and, perhaps in some ways, the dance number embodied the four-day state visit.  

James Mann is a China scholar and author-in-residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.  "The summit was important simply for the ceremony.  I'm not sure what sort of results it produced," he said.

It was a visit with plenty of pomp.  Mr. Hu's trip included a meeting with President Barack Obama, a state dinner at the White House, meetings with Congressional leaders, and speeches to business executives in both Chicago and Washington.  China's flag flew alongside U.S. ones on a main thoroughfare leading to the Capitol building, and officials announced that pandas on loan to the National Zoo in Washington could stay another five years.   

But there was serious business, as well.  China signed deals that could be worth more than $45 billion in increased exports.  And human rights advocates praised the Obama administration for directly addressing China's human rights record.  

At a press conference with Mr. Obama Wednesday, Mr. Hu said China has made "enormous progress" in the field of human rights, but he also conceded that "a lot still needs to be done."

Mann, who authored the book "The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression," said he thinks too much is being made of those particular comments.  "I didn't find that they had changed that much or that the language was that significant," he said.

Mann does think that the treatment Mr. Hu received will help the Chinese president's standing at home, but he cautioned against thinking that Mr. Hu's reputation depended upon his reception in the U.S.  

"The United States is very important to China, more important than other countries, but still doesn't really determine leadership issues that are really decided within China and within the Chinese Communist party," he said.

Overall, both the U.S. and Chinese sides emphasized the importance of strengthening bilateral relations, while highlighting the desire for greater trust and cooperation.  A spokesman in China's Foreign Ministry told reporters in Beijing Thursday that the visit to Washington was "fruitful" and would undoubtedly boost ties between the two nations.   

And, while in Mr. Obama's hometown of Chicago, as cameras snapped and students stared in rapt attention, Mr. Hu said he hopes the two nations can continue to exist in harmony.  

He said that the U.S. and China have two different systems, but the people of both countries share a desire for prosperity and peace.

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