President Hu Jintao next week will embark on his first overseas tour since becoming head of state, attending a G8 meeting where he will meet US President George W. Bush on the sidelines. Analysts believe his tour, which includes taking part as an observer at the informal G8 gathering in France, will usher in a new era for mainland diplomacy. 'We haven't set up a time for this meeting [with Bush] yet,' Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Guchang said yesterday. But Mr Liu stressed that this would be one of the most important meetings for Mr Hu. It will be the first time President Hu has met Mr Bush since the Chinese leader took office in March. Mr Liu said Mr Hu would lead a delegation on a 12-day tour to Russia, France, Kazakhstan and Mongolia beginning on Monday. In Moscow, Mr Hu will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin and attend the 300th anniversary of the founding of St Petersburg, where he will attend a meeting of the Shanghai Five, a forum China helped found with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in an effort to gain regional co-operation in its fight against Xinjiang separatists. Uzbekistan later joined the group. The highlight of the tour will come on June 1, when Mr Hu will represent China as a first-time observer at an event hosted by the Group of Eight nations in Evian, France. Dubbed informally as the North-South Dialogue, the meeting will discuss issues that separate developed and developing countries. Political analysts believe the world will be watching Mr Hu's performance. 'This trip is very important to President Hu,' said Li Fan, director of the World and China Institute in Beijing. People will watch his performance, especially how he responds to critical issues such as Sars.' To prepare for the summit and to ensure they are not Sars carriers, Mr Hu, his wife, Liu Yongqing, and dozens of top officials have been quarantined for the past two weeks and injected with five kinds of anti-viral medicines. Each of the injections cost about 1,000 yuan (HK$940). Laurence Brahm, a Beijing-based political economist, said Mr Hu's attendance at a G8 gathering was symbolically important.