US state dinner for Chinese leader


US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Grand Staircase (AP)

Michelle and Barack Obama have welcomed a mix of Hollywood A-listers, captains of industry and prominent Chinese-Americans to the White House as they threw a “quintessentially American” state dinner for the president of China, complete with apple pie, ice cream and jazz music.

The US first lady was clad in an elegant Alexander McQueen red shoulder-baring gown and the president sported a tuxedo as they welcomed President Hu Jintao on a red carpet on the White House portico, with an honour guard standing at attention behind them.

Celebrity star power arrived in the form of singer Barbra Streisand and her husband, actor James Brolin, and action film star Jackie Chan.

Big business turned out in force, too, including Microsoft’s Steven Ballmer and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon. Other big names included fashion’s Vera Wang, Vogue’s Anna Wintour, artist Maya Lin, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, and US Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter also attended.

Ms Wang wore a floor-length, sleeveless design of her own and Ms Wintour opted for a white, patterned Chanel skirt suit.

The dinner’s all-star jazz line-up included trumpeter Chris Botti, two-time Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz icon Herbie Hancock, rising pianist Lang Lang and four-time Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves.

Mere mortals who find themselves in a last-minute frenzy before guests arrive could take comfort in knowing that it is the same at the White House. Hours before the dinner, chair cushions were stacked in the front foyer and harried staff shuttled flower arrangements to and fro.

In a new twist to normal state dinners, the 225 guests were spread out among three rooms – the State Dining Room, Blue Room and Red Room – then all shuttled to the East Room for the entertainment. Big video monitors were set up in the Blue and Red rooms for the outcasts to catch the dinner toasts.

The two presidents’ toasts featured the usual promises of better relations all around and Mr Obama used the moment to highlight an agreement that would ensure beloved giant pandas from China remained at the Smithsonian National Zoo for another five years.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.