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High-Tech Home Has China's Leader as Visitor

President Hu Jintao gets a red carpet welcome at Microsoft, where he tours the futuristic house. He will meet Bush on Thursday.

April 19, 2006|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

REDMOND, Wash. — The setting, a tour of Microsoft's ultra-wired "Home of the Future," was faintly evocative of the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959 showcasing color televisions and other world-beating U.S. technology.

But when Chinese President Hu Jintao got together with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Tuesday, there was nothing like the famous "kitchen debate" in which then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev held a spirited discussion about the relative merits of the two superpowers' technological prowess.

Instead, Hu got literal red-carpet treatment at the software giant's headquarters. And whereas Khrushchev scoffed to Nixon about the American propensity for making "gadgets" with "no useful purpose," Hu told Gates he was both a fan and "friend of Microsoft."

Hu made the Seattle area his first stop on a three-day tour, which will include a meeting with President Bush on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Trade tensions are expected to take center stage.

Hu's Air China 747 touched down late Tuesday morning in Everett, Wash., at the complex where Boeing produces the jumbo jet. He was greeted by a parade of Pacific Northwest dignitaries, including Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke, her predecessor, who was the nation's first Chinese American governor. Seattle moguls such as Howard Schultz, the Starbucks chairman, were also on hand to greet Hu, 63, and his wife, Liu Yongqing.

But Hu's entourage was also dogged by several hundred noisy protesters, some dressed in traditional silk outfits of blue and pink, who gathered within half a block of his downtown Seattle hotel, banging drums and chanting for China to get out of Tibet and free political prisoners.

Members of Falun Gong, a spiritual group, also demanded that Hu stop what they described as the torture and persecution of the movement's followers.

At Microsoft, a truck got within 150 feet of the building where Hu had his tour and unfurled a large blue banner proclaiming: "New China Rises When CCP Is Gone." The initials are those of the Chinese Communist Party. Hu did not acknowledge the protesters.

Arriving at Microsoft, Hu entered a conference center decorated with Chinese and American flags, and red banners with yellow Chinese characters that said he was "warmly welcome" at Microsoft.

During the tour, Hu saw a display screen that showed photographs of areas where he has worked and lived, according to a pool report of the tour filed by the Associated Press.

There were so many reporters and photographers present at the event, about 125 in all, many from Chinese news organizations, that there was no way to accommodate all of them for the tour itself, American and Chinese officials said.

In the kitchen of the Home of the Future, there was a recipe in Chinese for making focaccia.

Hu also watched a demonstration of a so-called Tablet PC, a personal computer that has a pen-like device for handwritten notes. Hu said that it was difficult to type some mathematical equations, and that a stylus could make it much easier to do such work on a computer, according to the pool report.

Greeting children from Seattle's John Stanford International School, who sang a song for him in Chinese, Hu wrote in Chinese characters on the Tablet PC: "Long live the Chinese-American friendship."

In brief remarks as he left with Gates, Hu said China would work to "protect intellectual property rights," a reference to software and film piracy, a major U.S.-China trade sticking point. Bootleg versions of Windows and major Hollywood films are widely available in China.

Hu was a guest Tuesday night for dinner at the home of Gates and his wife, Melinda, on Lake Washington. Gregoire was the official host of the event, which was attended by about 100 people. Some guests paid $20,000 for two invitations, with proceeds used to defray security costs and other expenses for Hu's visit. Among invitees who did not need to pony up were former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

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