Hu Jintao arrives in Washington today, and President Obama will be rolling out the red carpet in public, even as the gloves come off in private. The Chinese president will have two dinners with Obama—one an intimate affair tonight, followed by a lavish state dinner tomorrow—and a State Department lunch hosted by Joe Biden. He’ll also chat with Democratic and Republican legislators, and appear with Obama before American and Chinese business leaders. But all that dinner conversation might get a bit heated.
Over the past two weeks, Robert Gates, Tim Geithner and Hillary Clinton have all thrown down gauntlets of sorts, with bemoaning in turn China’s military buildup, currency manipulation, trade imbalance, and human rights record. “So you’re welcoming the leader of the most important rival power in the world into the capital, and the way you pave his entrance… with these four big thorny issues,” says one national security expert. The New York Times suggests that Obama could be responding to the criticism that he was too deferential in his 2009 visit to China.