UPDATED 01/20/11 5:00 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Chicago later Thursday for a two-day visit.
The visit is expected to bring new trade deals for local businesses, although not everyone is excited about it.
Hu’s overnight stop follows his state visit with President Barack Obama where the two discussed human rights and the economy, among other topics.
Hu arrived at O’Hare International Airport Thursday afternoon. Mayor Richard M. Daley and his wife, Maggie, will host a dinner for Hu Thursday night at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave.
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Hu will also visit Walter Payton College Prep high school, 1034 N. Wells St., which hosts the Confucius Center Chinese language program. He will also tour numerous Chinese-owned businesses in the region, the Tribune reported.
In advance of Hu’s visit, Chinese flags were going up all along Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown to welcome the president.
While he is not planning a stop in the neighborhood, which with nearly 13,000 Chinese-Americans is the third biggest Chinatown in the country, the excitement is still building.
“He’s definitely showing the interest in our city, and I think that opens the door to international trade,” said Chi Can To, executive director of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
Those who call Chinatown home said they’re grateful to President Hu.
“He has a choice of many cities to go. You know, certainly New York has a very large Chinese population, and San Francisco, but he’s only coming to Chicago,” Chinatown resident David Hoi said. “It makes you feel proud.”
Hu’s stop in Chicago is significant, as he ended the night in Washington with a little jazz and a lavish dinner of lobster and ribeye. Chicago is the only other American city besides Washington that Hu is visiting.
Hu’s Chicago visit will be a trade mission. Top business leaders from China will try to strike deals with leaders from across the Midwest, benefiting both sides.
Keith Williams, president of the Northbrook-based Underwriters Laboratory, says President Hu’s visit to Chicago is an important symbol.
“The Midwest is the center of manufacturing in the U.S.,” he told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole. “They want to be more integrated with us in a manufacturing economy, they want to help us with exports, and they are thinking about making investments in the U.S.”
Gov. Quinn presided over a multimillion-dollar agreement to sell Illinois Soybeans to 24 Chinese companies, which will benefit the state’s considerable agriculture business.
One visit won’t translate into more jobs immediately, but Williams believes contacts are being forged on this visit to help Illinois tap into China’s emerging markets.
On Wednesday, President Obama announced $45 billion in new export deals with China, including Chicago-based Boeing. Obama made the case China’s growth is good for the U.S. economy.
“We want to sell you all kinds of stuff,” Obama said. “We want to sell you planes. We want to sell you cars. We want to sell you software.”
But with the good comes the bad, and President Obama did not waver in his talk with Hu about human rights.
“I have been very candid with President Hu about these issues,” Obama said.
Hu says China has made progress on the issue and said more work will be done.
“It is significant that the president was able to get that statement out, but now it is going to be deeds, not just words,” said former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson.
But Hu’s promise is not stopping protesters from speaking out against Hu during his Chicago visit.
Protesters will also demonstrate in front of the Hilton against alleged human rights abuses in Tibet and Taiwan, and of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
People have wondered why Hu has chosen Chicago out of the cities he could have visited.
Reuters says more than 300 Chicago businesses have a presence in China, and officials hope that number builds after Hu’s visit. Also, Mayor Daley has gone to China many times promoting Chicago business and Chinese tourism.
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