FEW presidents have arrived in Britain on a state visit about whom less has been known than President Hu of China who arrived in London yesterday and leaves later today for visits to Spain and Germany. Chinese presidents tend to emerge from the ranks of the Communist party, sometimes having served obscurely but loyally in distant parts of their vast country. Little as we may know of President Hu, he probably knows even less of us and it must be one object of any state visit to afford the distinguished visitor an impression of the way of life of his hosts. Whether this can be achieved in any substantial measure from a brief programme burdened with official engagements and brief discussions must be open to doubt. It must also be questioned whether the decision (by whom?) to beam red light over the London Eye, Somerset House and the Royal Academy will convey the correct impression to the president of the importance attached to his visit. For decades we have been talking about not forgetting China when we debate the future of the world. Now, suddenly it seems, China is already a factor to be reckoned with, forcing its presence upon us in multiple ways, not least the demands it is making on essential resources such as oil which we have always tended to think of as primarily ours. President Hu's daunting ask domestically is to ride the tiger of economic emancipation and the demand for individual freedom that invariably accompanies it. Internationally he is following a pragmatic and sometimes constructive policy which represents a break from the rigid outlook of many of his predecessors. His visits in Europe should give him confidence to continue in this way.
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