Military bands and a 21-gun salute were part of the welcome for China?s President Hu Jintao as he began the first White House state visit by a Chinese leader in 13 years.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Mr. Hu, and almost immediately touched on the sensitive subject of human rights in China.
?History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being,? Mr. Obama said.
President Hu responded with a call for each nation to respect the other?s choices.?China and the United States should respect each other?s choice of development path and each other?s core interests,? he said.
Later, at a joint press conference, Mr. Hu told reporters China has made enormous progress on human rights issues, but acknowledged that more improvement is needed. ?China still faces many challenges in economic and social development, and a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights,? he said.
Meanwhile, demonstrators outside the White House demanded more immediate improvement in China?s human rights record, and tougher action from Mr. Obama.
Elnigar Iltebir says China abuses peaceful Uighur protesters. ?We would like President Obama to exert greater pressure as China is becoming more of an international power they have to become a responsible stakeholder,? Iltebir said.
Student Qian Xin was among demonstrators who showed their support for Mr. Hu and China?s standing on human rights. ?We are so excited. As international students, we want to show our compassion and our welcome to our Hu Jintao,? Xin said.
Cooperation was the main word of the day, especially on economic matters.
The U.S. economy is the world?s largest, with China?s at number two and growing quickly. Mr. Obama said China?s economic development is good for America?s economy. ?The United States welcomes China?s rise as a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations. Indeed, China?s success has brought with it economic benefits for our people as well as yours,? he said.
The two presidents met with American and Chinese corporate leaders.
With the huge U.S. trade deficit to China a major concern, White House officials announced deals for China to purchase an estimated 45 billion dollars worth of American goods.
On Thursday, Mr. Hu meets with U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill, then goes to Mr. Obama?s home city of Chicago to meet with more business leaders.