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Guess Hu's Coming to Dinner

By Kim Bellware in News on Jan 20, 2011 10:00PM

On the heels of last night's official state visit at the White House, Chinese President Hu Jintao continues his four-day tour of the states with today's stop in the Windy City. The visit marks Hu's first to Chicago and only one outside of Beltway where he spent yesterday meeting (and eating) with President Obama and other leaders while discussing trade deals, human rights and the economic ties that bind the US to China.

Mayor Daley and Chicago First Lady Maggie were present at Wednesday evening's state dinner (Gawker has a mock-up of the seating arrangement at the head table, where the Daleys were seated), the first of two that the Chinese leader will share with the Mayor and his wife. After a tour of the city with the Chinese delegation, Hu is slated to visit Walter Payton High School — home to the country's largest Mandarin language program — and several Chicago businesses before attending a dinner at the Hilton hosted by the Daleys.

Though the reaction to the real benefits of Hu's visit have been mixed, Hu's Chicago visit is projected to be less contentious than his meeting with Congress earlier today. For the city's part, Daley has nursed a mostly positive relationship with China since his 2006 and 2008 visits to Beijing to sight-see and gather information for Chicago's ultimately failed 2012 Olympics bid. Meanwhile, Hu's visit has been a boon for some Chicago-area businesses: Soon after landing in Washington yesterday, one of the new trade deals announced included an order for 200 aircrafts from Chicago-based Boeing, a deal worth an estimated $19 billion dollars. Peoria-based construction company Caterpillar was another Illinois business included in the deals. (Reuters has a quick breakdown of Midwest companies with manufacturing ties to China).

Hu's visit to Chicago, the first of any by a Chinese president, marks what Daley is calling "A big deal. Big, big, big, big. Big deal." Despite the city's efforts to make the visit a successful mix of goodwill tour and economic partnership promotion, Hu's presence is not without protests; human rights groups like Students for a Free Tibet planned demonstrations outside of some of the stops on Hu's tour.