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Thursday, June 25, 1998 Published at 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Clinton welcomed Imperial-style

Ceremonial dancers welcomed the US president

In a colourful display filled with symbolism, Mr Clinton received an official welcome to China in a ceremony at the South Gate of the ancient city of Xian.

Clinton's speech in full
At the start of his landmark visit to the country - the first by an American head of state since 1989 - he was given the keys to Xian, the former Imperial capital.

In his first speech, Mr Clinton said a new day was dawning for all the people of China.

In an interview before leaving for his visit, President Clinton said he intended to raise human rights issues with his Chinese hosts and to press for dialogue on Tibet.

BBC China analyst James Miles on the visit
The president made no mention of human rights in his opening speech, but he did call on Beijing to respect the thoughts and beliefs of all China's people.

He dismissed opposition within the United States to his visit, and said the two countries had a powerful ability to help one another, and shared a special responsibility for the future of the world.

"New stage" in ties

[ image: Clinton receives the key to Xian city]
Clinton receives the key to Xian city
At the extravagant welcoming ceremony, the president was greeted with an old Chinese proverb: "Isn't it a delight, should friends visit from afar."

The Chinese Government said the president's visit heralded a new stage of development in relations between the two countries.

But the authorities are also taking steps to prevent any disruption; two known dissidents are reported to have been detained and tight security has been imposed in Xian.

Accompanied by his wife, Hillary, he was met by Chinese officials at the airport near Xian, and the couple posed for the press with flowers.

Crowds of onlookers lined the streets along his route to the old walled city, which lies inside the modern metropolis.

Deal signed

[ image: A musical and magical evening ceremony]
A musical and magical evening ceremony
Even before the plane touched down, the presidential visit seemed to have scored a success.

Two US power companies signed an agreement with Chinese partners to build a $415 million power plant in China just hours before the president got there.

The US consortium, led by General Electric Corp, sealed a $1.5bn deal with Zhejiang Provincial Power Development Co and Wenzhou Power Investment Co Ltd to build and operate a large coal-fired plant near Wenzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

The visit, which follows last year's trip to the United States by China's President Jiang Zemin, is seen by both governments as a crucial step towards rebuilding their relationship which was seriously harmed when hundreds of unarmed demonstrators were killed in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The Chinese press has styled the meeting between President Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton as "a handshake between two great nations".

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