China and the US got down to the key issues facing their leaders after president Hu Jintao’s formal welcome to the White House.
Mr Hu and president Barack Obama wasted no time in delivering pointed messages to each other at the start of day-long meetings to address trade, security and human rights issues that have been the cause of past disagreements.
In his remarks at the arrival ceremony, Mr Obama said each country had an enormous stake in the others’ future, and he then referenced human rights.
“We also know this: 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 peoples are upheld – including the universal rights of every human being,” he said.
Mr Hu replied that the relationship between the two powers should be based on “mutual respect,” with each country recognising the others’ core interests and choices of development paths – suggesting limits to how far the US can push China on issues from currency to human rights.
The state visit marked Mr Hu’s first visit to the US since 2006 when his arrival ceremony was marred by protocol blunders including an outburst from a protester from the Falun Gong spiritual sect.
Mr Hu arrived at the White House as part of a highly-choreographed ceremony, complete with welcomes from the president, vice president Joe Biden and their wives, and a long line of cabinet members and Chinese dignitaries.
Mr Obama and Mr Hu stood at attention as a military band played both national anthems. The Chinese anthem was properly announced as that of the “People’s Republic of China,” avoiding another gaffe committed during the 2006 visit when an announcer mistakenly used the official name of Taiwan.
The two leaders inspected troops on the White House South Lawn, then approached a line where they shook hands and greeted a group of children and young people holding Chinese and US flags.
Mr Obama then met Mr Hu in the Oval Office. The president will also host a session with Mr Hu, Chinese business leaders and 14 leading American chief executives. Later the two leaders plan a brief news conference limited to four questions. Mr Hu will then be honoured at a State Department lunch. Capping the day will be a lavish, pomp-filled state dinner.