WASHINGTON — When Hu Jintao makes what is likely his final trip to Washington as China’s president, he will get an honor he desperately wanted but was denied during his first visit nearly five years ago: a White House state dinner.
Symbolism and protocol are very important to the Chinese and the opulence of Wednesday’s black-tie affair with President Barack Obama should be plenty satisfying for Hu, a 67-year-old hydroelectric engineer who has ruled the country since 2002. That could help the relationship between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies.
A grand soiree is in the works, but some big questions remain. Will a celebrity chef do the cooking? Will first lady Michelle Obama’s gown have an Oriental flair? Will the Obamas try to turn Hu on to American pop culture with their choice of entertainment?
Mrs. Obama, the White House social secretary, Julianna Smoot, and other staffers deeply immersed in pulling off the administration’s third state dinner hope to avoid repeating the slights, both perceived and real, that marred Hu’s reception for an April 2006 visit with President George W. Bush.