Hu declares US trip a mission accomplished

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 January, 2011, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao told an audience of 300 Chinese living and studying in Chicago yesterday that his trip to the United States had achieved its goals.

Hu kicked off his last day in the country with a morning meeting with the Chinese community, following a dinner hosted by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and his wife at the grand ballroom of the Hilton hotel the previous night.

Hu appeared much more relaxed than during the hectic previous three days in Washington.

'Coming back to the United States after five years, the purpose of this trip is to strengthen mutual trust, expand exchanges and deepen co-operation,' Hu said. 'I can tell you all that this visit has achieved its expected goals.'

He said he had 'a fruitful talk with US President Barack Obama' when he was in Washington and that both sides reached 'important consensus over how to further develop Sino-US relations and a range of important regional and international issues.'

Strengthening economic ties was the theme of Hu's whirlwind overnight visit to the midwestern industrial hub. Daley characterised the visit as a 'big, big, big, big, big deal,' at a news conference last week.

On Thursday, Hu was given a warm, family-style welcome, as he jetted into the city. Braving a stiff wind and with temperatures hovering around minus 10 degrees Celsius, Hu stepped from his plane at O'Hare International Airport wrapped up in a scarf and a buttoned-up long coat.

Daley greeted him and the mayor's grandson and granddaughter presented flowers to Hu and welcomed him in Chinese. The dinner on Thursday night featured a live jazz band, 500 or so guests and a menu created by three chefs, one from Hong Kong.

'Despite the distance between Chicago and China, and the chilling wind outside, our friendship held us tight together. And the warm welcome from all of you here has deeply touched our hearts,' Hu told banquet guests.

Daley, a key figure in promoting Chicago's ties with China, visited Shanghai last year to headline 'Chicago Days' at the 2010 World Expo. In 2008, he went to the Beijing Olympics to look for lessons for Chicago's 2016 Summer Olympics bid. He has avoided criticising China over human rights issues and has distanced himself from US manufacturers' claims that Beijing's currency policy has contributed to high unemployment.

Hu also visited Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, which houses a branch of the Confucius Institute that teaches Chinese language programmes to students. The institute in downtown Chicago is the largest of its kind in the US.

Chicago boasts America's biggest Putonghua-teaching programme.

Later in the day, Hu was scheduled to visit an exhibition in suburban Chicago showing the achievements of Chinese companies in the midwestern United States.

At Thursday's banquet Daley said: 'Our long-range goal is to make Chicago the most China-friendly city in the United States and to establish it as China's gateway to America.' The mayor called Hu 'a man of vision', and Hu congratulated Daley on his 22 years in office.

On downtown Michigan Avenue, at a traffic junction surrounded by expensive, brand-name shops, Hu's supporters and protesters faced off from the grounds of two Chicago landmarks, the Old Water Tower and the Pumping Station, despite the bitter cold.

A sea of red flags and hundreds of students gathered around the tower while a much smaller group of Tibet supporters waved and shouted across the road from the Pumping Station.

Police kept both groups one block away from the rear entrance of the hotel where Hu was staying, so a few people from both groups walked around the block carrying large flags.

'They said we couldn't stay in one spot outside the authorised zone, so we have to keep walking,' one pro-China student said.

Some students said they had received subsidies from their university's Chinese student association to show support.