CHINA / National

Hu Jintao in Seattle, promoting trade relations
Updated: 2006-04-19 08:59

Chinese President Hu Jintao received a celebrity welcome, arriving at the western American coastal city Seattle to kick off his 4-day US visit, the highlight of which will be a summit with his US counterpart George W. Bush in Washington DC.

While trade is expected to hover over the visit, in Seattle, the 63-year-old leader of the world's most populous country and his wife Liu Yongqing were greeted by a local kung-fu club drumming and dancing Chinese dragon and lion dances.

hu jintao
Chinese President Hu Jintao and his wife Liu Yongqing arrive at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, April 18, 2006. [Reuters]

Waving and holding hands, Hu and his wife walked out of the plane and along a red carpet to be greeted by a delegation including Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, Chinese-American former governor Gary Locke as well as top Boeing executives.

Hu praised Seattle and Washington state and said they were "important American gateways to China," noting that rapidly growing trade between China and the state have contributed to Sino-US relations.

"I'm very happy," Hu told reporters after shaking hands with the welcoming crowd. "I hope my visit ... will strengthen dialogue, deepen cooperation."

Hu told Governor Gregoire he did not choose Seattle simply because it is the closest major U.S. city to China.

"It is also because your state enjoys very good cooperative relations with my country," Hu said through a translator.

China is Washington state's third-largest export market, while the state imported more than $16 billion (euro13.06 billion) worth of products from China in 2005.

"Seattle is so close to Asia," said Ida Zhu, a Chinese-American businesswoman. "They cannot ignore China anymore."

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