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Biden agrees to China trip at star-studded State Department lunch

Vice President Joseph Biden announced that he will travel to China this year, potentially setting up a corresponding visit to Washington by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as China’s leader in 2012. "Please tell them I accept," Biden said regarding Xi’s invite to Hu at the lunch ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

Vice President Joseph Biden announced that he will travel to China this year, potentially setting up a corresponding visit to Washington by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as China's leader in 2012.

"Please tell them I accept," Biden said regarding Xi's invite to Hu at the lunch he hosted on Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Biden then praised the U.S.-China relationship "as important as any in the world," and raised a glass. "I'd like to raise a toast to many more generations of friendship and peace."

Hu expressed "sincere appreciation" for Biden's remarks and toasted to the health of Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Clinton, "and to the friendship of our two peoples." They then sat down with an assembled crowd of political figures and celebrities to a meal of roasted butternut squash soup, timbale of pear and sunchoke, sage toasts, fillet of Alaskan cod, horseradish dijon crème fraiche, lemon-scented rice, winter vegetable medley, gilded chocolate and plum delight, and balsamic ice cream.

Vice President Joseph Biden announced that he will travel to China this year, potentially setting up a corresponding visit to Washington by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as China’s leader in 2012.

"Please tell them I accept," Biden said regarding Xi’s invite to Hu at the lunch he hosted on Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Biden then praised the U.S.-China relationship "as important as any in the world," and raised a glass. "I’d like to raise a toast to many more generations of friendship and peace."

Hu expressed "sincere appreciation" for Biden’s remarks and toasted to the health of Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Clinton, "and to the friendship of our two peoples." They then sat down with an assembled crowd of political figures and celebrities to a meal of roasted butternut squash soup, timbale of pear and sunchoke, sage toasts, fillet of Alaskan cod, horseradish dijon crème fraiche, lemon-scented rice, winter vegetable medley, gilded chocolate and plum delight, and balsamic ice cream.

Over 260 politicians, lawmakers, business leaders, musicians, and foreign policy wonks attended the lunch in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Room. At the head table were Biden, Hu, Henry Kissinger, Barbra Streisand, Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon, Sen. John Kerry, Yale’s Nancy Yao Maasbach, Vera Wang, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Clinton, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, UPS CEO Scott Davis, Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin, Sen. Richard Lugar, Yo-Yo Ma, Dr. Jill Biden and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.

Also spotted in the crowd by the press pooler was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, NBC’s Ann Curry, James Brolin, figure skater Michelle Kwan, Terry McAuliffe, Quincy Jones, Kal Penn, Valerie Jarrett, Susan Sher, Tina Tchen, and Courtney O’Donnell.

After dessert, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Roman performed three pieces: Dona Nobis Pacem (Traditional), Summer in the High Grassland (Zhao Jiping) and Allegro Prestissimo from Sonata No. 10 in G Major (Jean-Baptiste Barriere).

State Department officials ensured that the room was well-decorated for the lunch. The tables were covered with silk linens adorned with fabric plum blossoms and plums and featured a flower arrangement with green hydrangea, lavender sweet pea and peonies, a traditional Chinese floral symbol. Each menu card was cut in an intricate Chinese-style design, again featuring the plum and plum blossom.

"The design and décor of the Department of State luncheon celebrates the season of winter by incorporating traditional Chinese symbols with American culture," the State Department said in a statement.

After the dinner, the Bidens, Hu, Clinton, and Vilsack left to view a model of the Chinese traditional garden that will be built on 12 acres at Washington’s National Arboretum.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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