WASHINGTON — Feeling snubbed, slighted even, when he visited five years ago, Chinese President Hu Jintao is getting a do-over — plus the White House state dinner he sought back then but was denied.
Wednesday's opulent, black-tie affair with President Barack Obama — the grandest of White House soirees — will mark the first such event in China's honor in 13 years and it could help smooth tensions between the world's two largest economies.
Wednesday's affair will return the hospitality that Obama was shown at a state dinner in Beijing on his November 2009 visit.
A personal relationship between the two leaders is important for cooperation on several pressing issues in the time left on both of their terms in office, Asia watchers say. The visit is likely the last to Washington as president for Hu, a hydroelectric engineer who has ruled since 2002. He is expected to relinquish his leadership of the Communist Party next year and the presidency the year after. Obama is expected to seek re-election in 2012.
"The only way you can move policy is at the very top, and it requires a personal connection," said Victor Cha, director of Asian affairs on the National Security Council in the Bush White House. "Maybe this visit will be an opportunity to create some of that."
Hu is getting plenty of face time with Obama, including a second dinner. The more private meal at the White House on Tuesday after Hu lands in Washington also will include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, national security adviser Tom Donilon and aides to Hu.
Wednesday's schedule calls for the arrival ceremony, a one-on-one meeting between Obama and Hu, an expanded meeting that includes aides, a news conference and, finally, dinner.
It will be Obama's third state dinner, following those for India in 2008 and Mexico last year.