Chinese Leader in Chicago for Second Leg of US Visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao speaks at a dinner held in his honor in Chicago, Illinois, 20 Jan 2011

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Chicago on Thursday, beginning the second leg of a visit aimed at improving ties with the United States. The visit to America's third largest city followed two days in Washington where he met with President Barack Obama and held private meetings with Congressional lawmakers.

Chinese President Hu Jintao began his Chicago visit by meeting Mayor Richard M. Daley and attending a lavish dinner with city leaders at the Hilton Chicago hotel.

Mr. Hu praised Daley, calling him "the most senior mayor in America" after 22 years in office. The mayor responded by saying that America's third largest city is committed to strong economic and cultural ties with China.

Daley made a major effort to bring the Chinese leader to his city. The mayor is hoping Chicago will become a gateway for Chinese business and investment in the U.S.

Earlier in Washington, Mr. Hu held talks on a range of sensitive issues, including human rights, the economy and North Korea. At a press conference with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, he conceded that China needs to improve its human rights record.

President Hu later addressed business executives, and told them that the U.S. and China must work together to help achieve a full recovery. But he added that the bilateral relationship must be based on mutual respect.

"China-U.S. relationship is not one in which one side's gain means the other side's loss, rather it should be a relationship in which the two sides respect each other and endeavor to deepen strategic mutual trust," said Mr. Hu. "It should be a relationship that highlights common interests and stronger cooperation in all fields."

President Obama said that while the two countries disagree on some issues, there are many where they share common ground. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that in his meeting with the Chinese leader, Mr. Obama raised the case of jailed writer Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia.

In Washington, Mr. Hu also met privately with members of Congress. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said they raised a number of issues with the Chinese leader, including what the speaker called North Korea's "agressive behavior."

"I did express my concerns about religious liberty. I expressed my concerns about intellectual property and the issue of North Korea," said Boehner. "The president ([Hu Jintao] responded and I would hope that the dialogue on all these subjects will continue."

U.S. lawmakers have also criticized China's currency and economic policies, which many lawmakers believe are taking away American jobs.

Political analyst Joseph Cheng says Mr. Hu had to strike the right tone for future compromise.

"I think both sides would like to demonstrate that they have some tough bargaining to do and yet they are willing to reach compromises and this is most obvious on issues like the exchange rate of the renminbi, the human rights issues and so on," said Cheng.

Mr. Hu's whirlwind visit to Chicago also includes a visit to a high school that offers Chinese language and cultural instruction. He leaves the United States on Friday