SEATTLE (CN) – Seattle pulled out the stops for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, with high-powered business leaders and government officials greeting him and supporters of Tibet and Falun Gong lining the streets along with well-wishers waving Chinese flags.
Three U.S. governors, including California’s Jerry Brown, met with Xi in a visit that continues Wednesday. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Henry Kissinger and Bill Gates were among the hosts and guests at Tuesday’s events, along with executives from Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Blackberry and others. Former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke offered toasted the Chinese president at dinner.
On Wednesday Xi was to tour the Microsoft campus, Boeing’s Everett plant and a high school. Then he will fly to Washington, D.C. for talks with President Obama on Thursday.
Protesters and well-wishers lined the streets of downtown Seattle to greet Xi’s motorcade.
Advocates of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that combines meditation and exercise, set up block-long banners to protest the group’s treatment in China. China represses any sort of organization that is not directed by the state.
Activists supporting Taiwan and Tibet held signs and chanted outside barriers erected around the Chinese delegation’s hotel.
Supporters of China waved Chinese flags alongside the protesters.
China is Washington State’s largest trading partner. One-fourth of all the state’s exports go to China. Two-way trade between the state and China came to $29 billion in 2014.
Governor Jay Inslee celebrated the state’s “strong economic, academic and cultural ties to China,” in a statement.
Xi’s first state visit to the United States comes at a time of tense relations between the two superpowers. President Obama is considering imposing sanctions, or punishment of some sort, for China’s long record of cyberspying and theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Xi, as is customary with Chinese leaders, reacted indignantly, citing revelations of United States electronic spying even upon its allies.
After meeting with Obama on Thursday, Xi will fly to New York for meetings at the United Nations.
Gov. Brown had some kind words for China on Monday, telling the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he saw opportunities to cooperate with the world’s most populous country. China spews more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world, but also spent $89 billion on clean-air technologies last year.
“They are serious about this,” Brown told the Seattle newspaper after meeting with Chinese officials. “They are at least as serious or more serious than a good part of the American political class.”
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