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Chicago, China Seek Stronger Ties In Hu Visit

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Chicago, China Seek Stronger Ties In Hu Visit

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Chicago, China Seek Stronger Ties In Hu Visit

Chicago, China Seek Stronger Ties In Hu Visit

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Chinese President Hu Jintao wrapped up his visit to the United States, ending a two-day stay in Chicago after an official state visit with President Obama earlier this week. Hu met with business, government and cultural leaders who say the Chinese president's visit is a chance to strengthen ties between the Midwest and the world's most populous country.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Today, President Obama said he wants to open up Chinese markets to U.S. companies to have two-way trade, not just one-way trade. Many of those companies are in the Midwest, which may explain why Chinese President HU Jintao wrapped up hi high-profile U.S. visit today in Chicago.

Here's NPR's Cheryl Corley.

CHERYL CORLEY: President Hu began his day with a visit to Chicago's Walter Payton High School, home to the Confucius Institute. In a partnership with public schools, the institute teaches about 12,000 students Mandarin Chinese. Alex Guiravich(ph), a sophomore, who started taking Mandarin last year, was one of the lucky ones on-hand for the president's visit.

Mr. ALEX GUIRAVICH: It's weird thinking that the president of China picked our school out of all the schools in the United States to go to. But it's cool.

(Soundbite of music)

CORLEY: Students from several schools waved Chinese and American flags and welcomed Hu in his native tongue. They treated him to performances, including a traditional Chinese handkerchief dance.

President HU JINTAU (China): (Foreign language spoken)

CORLEY: President Hu thanked the students and invited the school district to send 20 teachers and students to China. Then he left to tour an expo of companies with ties to China to show the growing cooperation between that country and the United States.

Last night, at a formal dinner for Hu, Mayor Daley said it was a relationship that will endure.

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Chicago, Illinois): 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 Americas.

CORLEY: The mayor has traveled to China several times in recent years, cultivating relationships and promoting the city. Chicago has sister-city relationships with two Chinese cities.

Speaking through an interpreter during the dinner, President Hu said there's been a substantial increase in the number of exports from Midwestern states since 2000.

President HU: (Through translator) Boeing, Motorola, Caterpillar, McDonald's and many other well-known companies have become household names in China.

CORLEY: This was the first time President Hu visited Chicago. And last night, a crowd of supporters rallied across the street from his downtown hotel. Student Ping Ting-li(ph) had traveled from downstate Illinois in hopes of getting a glimpse of Hu.

Ms. PING TING-LI: We are coming here for just saying I love China, nothing else. (Unintelligible). We love our president, and we love China, yeah.

Unidentified Group: Hu Jintao is a murderer.

CORLEY: But another crowd wasn't offering support and criticized China for the way it handles human rights. Many of those shouting shame on the Chinese president were of Tibetan descent.

Punsok Doji(ph), who had traveled from Minnesota, said talk about trade deals shouldn't dominate the conversation with China's leader in town.

Mr. PUNSOK DOJI: They consider that human rights is not a big deal, but the trade deal is the biggest deal. That's actually not a fair deal. The fair deal is the human rights is the fair deal and the biggest deal.

CORLEY: But the focus throughout the Chinese president's trip was on business. While he was visiting the Confucius Institute and talking to Chinese businesses located in the Midwest, China's commerce minister was in Chicago, too, at a forum promoting U.S.-Chinese economic cooperation. A contract-signing ceremony was held for ventures between dozens of U.S. and Chinese companies.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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