By Ray Fleming

IT is to be hoped that other arrangements for the State Visit to America of President Hu Jintao of China went better than the joint press conference with President Obama. There seemed to be total confusion over whether simultaneous or consecutive interpretation of the questions and answers would be used and as a result President Hu initially gave the impression that he had ducked answering the inevitable question on human rights. When he got his slot his answer included the much-reported words, “A lot still has to be done in China in terms of human rights.”

These things happen but happily the reports and photographs of the State Banquet at the White House have suggested an immaculately arranged occasion. It was not quite a black-tie affair because President Hu wore a day suit with a blue tie. Michelle Obama was resplendent in a striking red gown. The 225 guests ranged from two former US Presidents (Carter and Clinton), to Jackie Chan the action film star and Wendi Deng Murdoch whose husband was absent on business. That was curious because several other top US businessmen with an interest in China were there.

A very few people had also been invited to the earlier lunch hosted by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- among them Barbra Streisand who when asked why answered, deadpan, “I once worked in a Chinese restaurant.”

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