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China's President Arrives in Chicago - 2002-10-23

The president of China has begun a four-day visit to the United States that will end Friday at President Bush's ranch in Texas. Jiang Zemin stopped first in Chicago, where he expressed hope that this visit will improve U.S. China relations.

President Jiang Zemin received a warm welcome Tuesday at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Among those on hand to greet him were members of Chicago's Chinese-American community, waving Chinese flags.

Tuesday evening, President Jiang made brief remarks at a banquet held in his honor. Speaking through a translator, he expressed hope that his trip to the United States and meeting with President Bush Friday will increase understanding and trust between the two nations. "I look forward to meeting with President Bush to exchange views on a series of important subjects," he said. "I am confident that this visit will help move forward the constructive and cooperative relationship between China and the United States."

Among the discussion topics likely to be raised Friday is North Korea's recent admission that it has been developing nuclear weapons, and whether China will support a United States-backed U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq.

This is likely to be Mr. Jiang's last visit to the United States as a head of state. He is expected to retire next month as Communist Party leader, and his term as president ends next year.

Across the street from Mr. Jiang's Chicago hotel, a few hundred demonstrators filled a small park. Some were Falun Gong practitioners silently protesting alongside signs calling on the Chinese government to end its ban of the spiritual movement. Other protesters noisily demanded an end to Chinese control of Tibet. "We just want to show the people in Chicago how China has damaged the Tibetan culture and how China has violated human rights in Tibet. We are not happy with what is going on in Tibet," said one of the demonstrators.

On a street corner across from the park, a small number of Chinese-Americans held large Chinese flags to show their support for President Jiang. "All the people on the opposite side [of the street] just represent a little, little part of the Chinese people," stated another demonstrator.

Jiang Zemin will stop in Houston on Wednesday, and deliver a speech at Texas A&M University on Thursday before heading to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.