Why Is Hu Jintao Headed to Chicago?

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Following his appearance in Washington, Chinese president Hu Jintao is headed for Chicago. The New Yorker's Evan Osnos asks why. "Why not?" one might reply, but Osnos searches for the real reason behind Hu's visit to the Windy City (other than perhaps a craving for deep dish pizza).

Once merely a blip on China's radar, Chicago has become an "unlikely, new favorite" of the country's leaders. Osnos offers a few suggestions for how Chicago suddenly grabbed China's attention, such as, "it’s the President’s home town; it’s the headquarters of Boeing, which just sold China $19 billion in airplanes; Illinois is also home to the U.S. operations of Wanxiang International, an auto-parts company that employs more Americans than any other Chinese company." But, he reveals, the real reason behind China's new love for Chicago is that Chicago loves China!

Osnos explains:

Today, Chicago has the largest Confucius Institute in the world, which Hu will visit this week. Since 2006, the Chinese government has donated roughly $1.6 million in funds and materials to Chicago schools. The city employs fifty-eight full-time Chinese-language teachers; they oversee twelve thousand public-school students learning Chinese. I’ve sat in on Chinese classes in poor neighborhoods, and I’ve seen how it compels students to see China as a plausible part of their lives. Most of those kids will never learn enough Chinese to make a career out of it, but that’s not the point. Those kids are growing up to believe, at least on some level, that China can be a part of their lives. And that is worth something.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.