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Obama-Hu White House summit today, but Americans not so sure about this friendly China stuff

January 19, 2011 |  3:08 am

China Flags in Washington DC 1-18-11

Big state doings at the White House today.

China's President Hu Jintao is still in town, and President Obama is laying on all the ceremonial trappings for the head of America's largest creditor nation. They're even bringing out Joe Biden's wife, Jill, to greet him.

And another one of those expensive-gowned Obama state dinners tonight for the Chinese leader. Will the Salahis try again? And will dignitaries be hungry again a half-hour after they eat?

There's a phony official welcoming ceremony set for the White House this morning; the presidents had dinner and spent most of the evening together there Tuesday. All kinds of meetings all day among diplomats and business people, including a prestigious private meeting between the two presidents in the Oval Office with a media visit. Whoo, big stuff, symbolically speaking. (And yes, Joe will be allowed into that one too.)

Obama watchers will recall that Britain's then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown wasn't important ....

... enough to merit a side-by-side news conference as Hu will get this afternoon. Nor last February was the Dalai Lama worthy of an Oval Office chat since his very existence offends China. Only one White House-chosen photo of the spiritual leader of occupied Tibet was allowed, showing Obama lecturing him. And the Dalai Lama was even escorted out the White House back door to minimize publicity and Beijing's annoyance.

Anyway, now comes a new poll revealing that Americans are pretty divided in their feelings about the rising superpower in Asia. ABC News' polling guru Gary Langer reports that 44% of Americans regard China as an unfriendly nation. While 47% of surveyed Americans have been tricked into seeing China as a friend.Democrat president Barack Obama lectures the Dalai Lama during a White House visit 2-18-10

Worse for Obama's efforts to portray China positively, the same poll finds nearly two out of three Americans (61%) see China as "a threat to American jobs and economic security."

Only 29% see China as "an opportunity for new markets and investment," a major thrust of Obama's meetings this afternoon.

Among those who see the U.S. economy as somehow troubled, fully 71% see China as a threat.

Langer also reports that Americans give their own president "a tepid rating for his handling of relations with China -- 43% approve and 35% disapprove with a substantial 23% expressing no opinion."

Conservatives, Republicans and older Americans tend to see China as more of a threat than liberals, Democrats and young adults. Go figure.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Hyungwon Kang / Reuters; Pete Souza / White House.

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