In just hours from now, President George Bush will lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from the Chinese capital.
Mr. Bush will be the first sitting U.S. president to attend an Olympics on foreign soil. And he says he can not wait to go.
"I am honored to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games here in Beijing," said Mr. Bush.
The president spoke at the official dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in the Chinese capital. The structure, which cost $434 million, is the second largest construction project in the history of the State Department, just behind the new heavily-fortified U.S. Embassy in Iraq.
President Bush said the new embassy in China is an example of the deepening ties between Washington and Beijing.
"The United States and China have built a strong relationship rooted in common interests," he said.
But he made clear that does not mean the United States will ignore Chinese government actions that it disagrees with. He said because of the strength of the bilateral relationship, the two governments can be frank with each other.
"The relationship between our nations is constructive and cooperative and candid," added Mr. Bush.
The president's remarks came one day after a speech in Bangkok that was highly critical of China's human rights policies. His language in the diplomatic setting of the embassy was a bit more subdued but his message was clear as he urged the Chinese government to expand freedoms for its people
"We strongly believe societies that allow the free expression of ideas tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful," he said.
The embassy dedication was a family affair with President Bush and his father - former President George H.W. Bush - both in attendance.
The elder Bush was America's top diplomat in Beijing in the mid-1970's, and he marveled at the changes over the years that have brought the city to the point where it can host the Olympic games.
"The bicycles that used to dominate the roads have given way to more cars, and then when you come to this magnificent Bird's Nest - the national stadium - and the other architectural features that now dominate the landscape here, there can be no question that China has achieved something truly special in readying itself to host these games," he said.
The dedication ceremony at the new embassy showcased both Chinese and American culture. It began at 8:08 (0008 UTC) on August 8, 2008, because the number eight is considered lucky in China. And it ended with a performance by the Gatlin Brothers - a country music trio close to the Bush family.
China opened its new embassy last week in Washington, D.C. The massive limestone and glass structure is the largest diplomatic compound in the U.S. capital.