Chinese president dines at Bill Gates' house, plans Boeing tour

Calling his country's relationship with the Boeing Co. an example of the "win-win" potential of China-U.S. trade, Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday told an audience of aircraft workers that China will need thousands of new planes in coming years.

Hu's speech at the company's massive Everett plant comes just days after Chinese officials confirmed a commitment to order 80 Boeing 737 jets, in a deal valued at $5.2 billion (Ђ4.21 billion) at list prices. The order has yet to be finalized, and airlines typically negotiate discounts.

"Boeing's cooperation with China is a living example of the mutually beneficial cooperation and win-win outcome that China and the United States have achieved from trade with each other," Hu said. "In the next 15 years, the demand for new aircraft will reach 2,000 planes. This clearly points to a bright tomorrow for future cooperation between Boeing and China."

Boeing has estimated that China will require 2,600 new airplanes over the next 20 years.

Workers at the plant were eager for a glimpse of Hu.

"China is one of the largest markets for Boeing," said Craig Thompson, an engineer at the Everett plant. "The guy's coming here. I'm going to listen to what he has to say."

Hu began his day Wednesday at his downtown Seattle hotel by visiting with China scholars and academics, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Defense Secretary William J. Perry.

The big Boeing deal is one of several purchases the Chinese made recently as officials try to ease tensions over the massive trade gap between the two nations. It's one of several issues President George W. Bush is expected to raise when Hu heads to Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, Hu toured Microsoft's suburban Redmond campus and dined at company chairman Bill Gates' home. Hu said he admired what Gates had achieved. He also sought to reassure Gates that China is serious about protecting intellectual property rights, a key concern for the company as it battles widespread piracy of its Windows operating system there.

"Because you, Mr. Bill Gates, are a friend of China, I'm a friend of Microsoft," Hu said through a translator. "Also, I am dealing with the operating system produced by Microsoft every day," he added, to laughter.

Gates responded: "Thank you, it's a fantastic relationship," and then quipped: "And if you ever need advice on how to use Windows, I'll be glad to help", reports AP.

O.Ch.