Obama Has Broad Agenda for Hu Jintao's State Visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, and Vice President Joe Biden stand for the national anthems of both countries during an arrival ceremony on Jan. 18, 2011, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

One way to look at the State Visit by China's President Hu Jintao, it's a slap-on-the-back for the national leader of America's biggest foreign lender.

The latest numbers from the Treasury Department show that as of November 2010, China held over $895 billion in U.S. Government securities. That's 6.4 percent of the U.S. National Debt, 9.5 percent of that portion of the Debt held by the public. When someone invests that much in your country, they probably deserve an opulent State Dinner at the White House.

Since taking office, President Obama has met with over a hundred world leaders, and China's Pres. Hu Jintao is only the 3rd invited to make a State Visit. The White House says it reflects the importance Mr. Obama places on building "a growing friendship and strong relationship" between the U.S. and China.

During his first visit to Beijing at the end of 2009, President Obama declared that the Sino-American relationship "has never been more important to our collective future." He said the major challenges of the 21st century impact both countries and that neither can solve them by acting alone.

All State Visits are diplomatic kiss-ups. They are meant to warm relations between leaders and nations so in search of concessions from the other.

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The U.S. has much on its agenda that it wants from China including:

  • Help in getting North Korea to end its provocative conduct and nuclear weapons program.
  • Pressuring Iran to abide by its international obligations on nuclear power.
  • Protection of U.S. intellectual property rights by China.
  • Opening of more Chinese markets to U.S. goods and services
  • An end to Chinese manipulation of its currency.
  • Respect for human rights in China and Tibet.

Some of these items - especially human rights - have been on the Sino-American agenda for years and even decades with little progress at best.

"This is a long road," acknowledged White House spokesman Robert Gibbs at his daily briefing Tuesday. "This is an argument we have and will continue to make to the Chinese and push them to do better."

President Hu is being accorded the usual features of a State Visit including a welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House with the familiar Fife & Drum Corps; a luncheon in his honor at the State Department; and a State Dinner in his honor at the White House.

In addition, Vice President Biden was at Joint Base Andrews to greet Hu on his arrival in the U.S. and President Obama invited him to a private dinner at the White House for some "candid conversation."

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But no visit by a Chinese leader rivals the one accorded Deng Xiaping, head of the Communist Party of China and paramount leader of the country from 1978 to 1992.

Just weeks after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China in November of 1978, Deng arrived in the U.S. for an official visit at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter.

Deng's swing through the U.S. included visits to Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Boeing Aircraft in Seattle and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where Deng was invited to pilot a space shuttle training module.

Perhaps most extraordinary was his visit to an American rodeo in Simonton, Texas where the diminutive Deng donned a Ten Gallon Hat and waved it at cheering Americans as he rode around the rodeo arena in a horse-drawn stagecoach.

Nothing on President Hu's U.S. schedule approaches that.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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