By Christina Wilkie - 01/20/11 03:30 AM EST
President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao toasted U.S. and Chinese
collaboration and mutual interests on Wednesday night at a festive
state dinner for 225 guests at the White House.
Their toasts marked the high point of an evening notable for its strict adherence to the protocol and symbolism valued in Chinese culture, but which, at the same time, managed to fulfill the Chinese delegation's request for a thoroughly American dinner party.
In his remarks, Obama noted that despite "differences of culture and perspective," America shares with China "a reverence for family" and a "belief that, with education and hard work and with sacrifice, the future is what we make it." Obama also shared the news of a new agreement under which Washington's National Zoo "will continue to dazzle children and visitors with [China's] beloved giant pandas."
Speaking after Obama, Hu alluded more directly to bilateral discussions that have taken place over the past two days, noting through a translator that the U.S. and China had reached an "important agreement" earlier in the day to "increase contacts at the top … levels, strengthen strategic mutual trust … and step up communication and coordination on international and regional issues."
In a reference to some of the more contentious issues addressed during his visit, Hu said that both nations agreed that "we should respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the development interests," and "properly handle differences and frictions."
The guest list represented a broad array of distinguished Chinese Americans, as well as statesmen, lawmakers, business leaders and key members of Obama's administration.
In addition to former
Presidents Carter and Clinton, former Secretaries of State
Henry Kissinger and George Shultz were in attendance, as was actor
Jackie Chan, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and designer Vera Wang. Also on the guest
list were legendary performer Barbra Streisand; Vogue editor Anna
Wintour; philanthropist Wendi Murdoch, the wife of News Corp. Chairman
Rupert Murdoch; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R); House Minority
Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.). Members of Obama's administration in attendance
at the dinner included Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen
Sebelius, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and newly appointed White
House Chief of Staff William Daley.
Notably absent were Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), all of whom declined to attend.
First lady Michelle Obama's choice of a red, one-shouldered gown was viewed by many as an homage to the symbolism of the color red in Chinese culture, as well as a nod to the late British designer Alexander McQueen, whose label designed it.
After dinner, a reception featuring American jazz music kept guests up well past 9 p.m., grooving to the sounds of Herbie Hancock, Chris Botti, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, players from the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz and a special performance from world-renowned classical pianist Lang Lang.
(Photo: Getty Images)