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Chinese President's Chicago Stop Sounds Like Home

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Chinese President Hu Jintao is back in China after a visit this week to the United States. Hu first met with President Obama and top administration officials in Washington, D.C., then he headed to Chicago, where he was greeted by Mayor Richard J. Daley. Forgive me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Hes gone, isn't he? Mayor Richard M. Daley and Midwestern business leaders who courted Hu in an effort create more jobs and business for the region.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: It was a whirlwind tour of the city for China's president. When he arrived in Chicago, he attended a brief private gathering with business leaders and then a formal dinner with Chicago's corporate and political elite.

(Soundbite of violin music)

CORLEY: That's where Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who has long been a champion of closer ties to China, detailed the city's relationship with the world's most populous country.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Democrat, Chicago): We have hosted each other's visitors and government leaders, exchanged art and music, shared business ideas, technology and medical expertise.

CORLEY: And the goal now, says Daley, is to make the city the most China-friendly in the United States. For his part, President Hu, speaking through an interpreter, said exports from Midwestern states have grown rapidly.

President HU JINTAO (China): (Through Translator) Some forecasts show that China-U.S. trade is expected to exceed $500 billion U.S. dollars by 2015.

(Soundbite of applause)

CORLEY: This was Hu's first visit to Chicago, and outside the downtown hotel where he spoke, supporters and protesters lined up behind barricades as police kept a close watch along Chicago's Michigan Avenue.

(Soundbite of drums)

CORLEY: Student Ping-Ting Li had traveled from downstate Illinois and was excited the Chinese president made Chicago his only other stop during his U.S. stay:

Ms. PING-TING LI: It's means that we have a really great friendship between the two countries. He's not only reaching our citizens.

CORLEY: Across the street from Hu supporters, protesters, like Ronald Schupp(ph), shouted shame, charging that the Chinese president had a hand in human rights abuses against Tibet.

Mr. RONALD SCHUPP: And I'm here today joining these wonderful Tibetans to tell the Chinese Communist Party that their actions against Tibet are obscene.

(Soundbite of protestors)

CORLEY: There was no controversy during Hu's visit to Chicago's Walter Payton High School, home to the Confucius Institute, which focuses on teaching Chinese language and culture.

(Soundbite of singing)

CORLEY: In the school's recital hall, students offered a mix of American and Chinese culture, singing songs and performing Chinese dances.

President HU: (Foreign language spoken)

CORLEY: Hu thanked the students, told them to value their time, and invited some of the faculty and students to his country. Then he headed to an expo showcasing the products of several Chinese companies that have a presence in the Midwest. There are some 300 Chicago-based companies in China.

At a forum being held while Hu was in town, there was a contract signing ceremony for ventures between dozens of U.S. and Chinese companies. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said another agreement for the U.S. sale of soybeans to China was worth nearly $2 billion dollars.

Governor PAT QUINN (Democrat, Chicago): And having such a great market as the people of China is really helpful to our economy.

CORLEY: Exactly the reason why the officials here say President Hu's visit to Chicago was a good step for both countries.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.