TODAY   |  January 20, 2011

China human rights loom at state dinner

The White House put on the pomp to welcome China's leader Hu Jintao, but all the glitz and personal diplomacy could not disguise fundamental disagreements over business and human rights. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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ANN CURRY, co-host: Chinese President Hu Jintao makes his way to Capitol Hill today following a star-studded state dinner at the White House . We've got NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell joining us now with details. Hey, Andrea , good morning.

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good morning, Ann. On a day capped by that glittering state dinner with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton , both attending, President Obama spoke of cooperation and friendly competition between the United States and China , all aimed at ironing out problems in a very complicated relationship. The White House spared no detail to welcome China 's leader. From the first lady, resplendent in red, a color traditionally thought to bring good luck in China , to the star-studded guest list. Foreign policy path-breakers from both parties, bankers, business leaders, and fashion icons. Yo-Yo Ma , Barbra Streisand with husband James Brolin . Her connection to China ?

Ms. BARBRA STREISAND: I worked in a Chinese restaurant .

MITCHELL: Jackie Chan, Michelle Kwan . But other than New Jersey 's governor, very few Republican politicians.

Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, it just makes me unique once again.

MITCHELL: The all-American menu, a five-star version of surf and turf, apple pie and ice cream. And the best of American jazz. Hospitality that even led to a breakthrough on panda diplomacy , extending China 's loan of Washington 's favorite Chinese imports.

President BARACK OBAMA: Our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.

MITCHELL: Still, all the pomp and circumstance and personal diplomacy couldn't disguise fundamental disagreements over business and human rights .

Pres. OBAMA: We come from very different cultures and with very different histories. We have some core views as Americans about the universality of certain rights.

MITCHELL: President Hu offered a rare public admission.

President HU JINTAO: The lock still needs to be down in China in terms of human rights .

MITCHELL: And human rights advocate Kenneth Roth was invited to dinner.

Mr. KENNETH ROTH (Human Rights Watch): I take the reason that I was invited as really a statement to President Hu .

MITCHELL: None of that satisfied protesters or Congressional critics.

Representative CHRIS SMITH (Republican, New Jersey): Let's not forget, China is the most egregious human rights violator in the world.

MITCHELL: Most of the business of the summit was business. The president and top CEOs complained about China 's rampant piracy of software and movies, barriers to markets and currency manipulation. The two countries did announce $45 billion in new business deals, including the sale of 200 Boeing jets. The White House said all this would potentially produce 235,000 new American jobs .

Pres. OBAMA: We want to sell you all kinds of stuff. We want to sell you planes, we want to sell you cars, we want to sell you software.

MITCHELL: US officials said that China did make some concessions, lowering some trade barriers or at least promising to. But today the Chinese leader could find a tougher reception on Capitol Hill . He'll be meeting with the Speaker of the House John Boehner and with Senate leaders from both parties who chose not to attend the state dinner . Ann :

CURRY: All right, Andrea , thank you, so much.