Chinese president spends 20 hours in Chicago

January 21, 2011 2:57:14 PM PST
Chinese President Hu Jintao is on his way home after visiting Chicago, where he met with business leaders and invited a group of CPS students to visit China.

Jintao spent fewer than 24 hours in Chicago, but in that time Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley highlighted shared interests from culture to language to economics.

President Hu Jintao was welcomed at Walter Payton College Prep with flowers, song and greetings in his native tongue. Walter Payton College Prep may have the most elite Chinese language program of any K-12 school in U.S.

Mayor Daley brought the Chinese leader to the school to reflect the city's global vision.

"Knowledge is the key to the future," said President Hu through a translator.

"It's the key to, as the president pointed out, to your future - but most importantly our city, our nation, the world," said Mayor Daley.

At the school assembly, students performed traditional Chinese dance. President Hu invited 20 Walter Payton students and faculty members to visit China this summer.

"We're especially struck by how bright and inquisitive the students are by your overall talents and development," said Pres. Hu through a translator.

Pres. Hu then attended an exhibition in suburban Woodridge featuring Chinese-owned companies that have a presence in the Midwest.

Only one American company was invited to participate: Chicago-based A. Finkl and Sons. The steel processing equipment business has grown its footprint in China while adding jobs in Chicago.

"For us, it gives access that as a small company that would take ten years. It would just take a long, long time," said Bruce LIimatainen, A. Finkl and Sons Co.

The trip was short but significant and the city hopes the roughly 20-hour visit will pay decades of dividends. Though some say they hope the City of Chicago will make Chinese humans rights reforms and changes in trade policy part of the conversation.

"The Chinese do not play fair in many ways, and it's hurting a lot of our local businesses, including manufacturers," said Rep. Dan Lipinski.

This visit comes at a critical time with the U.S. economy starting to rebound and Chinese consumption on the rise. Mayor Daley hopes increased Chinese interest in Chicago will go beyond the private sector and include infrastructure investments. He wants businesses to help fund a high-speed train from O'Hare International Airport to downtown so taxpayers are off the hook.

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