OTTAWA - Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the nation's capital Thursday was a carefully choreographed show of Sino-Canadian friendship, free of any interaction with journalists and bolstered by bused-in crowds of the foreign leader's supporters.
If there was any awkwardness over remarks made by the head of Canada's spy agency about the influence of Chinese intelligence agents over certain unnamed Canadian politicians, it didn't show.
In Hu's meetings with Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there were only expressions of friendship and the hope that the 40-year-old diplomatic relationship would keep growing.
Harper and Hu signed an agreement that would allow for more Chinese to visit Canada, a deal they had signalled during Harper's first visit to China last December.
Hu also agreed to clear the way for Canadian beef to be exported to China.
"President Hu, we have just begun our discussions. We have many matters to discuss across a range of issues," Harper said to Hu as they met in his Parliament Hill office.
"Some of those are strictly bilateral matters of course, but I know we will also be exchanging views in advance of the very important G20 summit we have coming up in a couple of days.
"I always look forward to our discussions, and there's no time greater than at this moment in our history and in the world's history."
Hu spoke of expanded trade and strategic co-operation and geopolitical issues between Canada and China.
"In the views ranging from developing our own economies, to sustaining the recovery momentum in the global economy ... there is a need and also a possibility for Canada and China to further scale up their co-operation," said Hu.
"Our two sides will continue to follow the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit to move forward the strategic partnership between our two countries."
There was no mention in any of the public speeches Thursday of human rights, or of the activities of Chinese agents that Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Dick Fadden had referred to in a startling CBC-TV interview earlier in the week.
Harper has been trying to shore up Canadian-Chinese relations since 2006, when he took public shots against Beijing over human-rights issues.
Dimitri Soudas, Harper's director of communications, said Harper raised human-rights and consular issues when the two met privately. The hotspots of Iran and North Korea were also discussed.
Soudas said the meeting was successful, and the two found they saw eye-to-eye on a number of issues heading into the G8 and G20 summits, including their opposition to a global bank tax and their feeling that debt repayment and fiscal consolidation were paramount to the global economic recovery.
Hundreds of enthusiastic supporters hoisting Chinese flags, banging drums and even performing traditional group dances greeted Hu as he arrived on Parliament Hill. Many students of Chinese origin arrived by bus from Quebec and other parts of Ontario to welcome the president.
A University of Western Ontario chemistry student, clutching a Chinese flag, said the Chinese Embassy provided him with food and hotel lodging during his three-day visit to Ottawa.
Such shows of support for visiting leaders are rare. The last such demonstration of affection was for newly inaugurated U.S. President Barack Obama in early 2009, but that crowd was composed mostly of curious Canadian fans.
"One of the reasons that we're coming is actually to fight against those who are protesting," said McGill University student Sue Feng.
"They have the right to express their opinions. We have the right to be here to support him as well."
Facing the pro-Hu crowd was a much smaller collection of demonstrators, some with the Falun Dafa spiritual movement that has faced persecution in China, and others opposing the Chinese presence in Tibet.
Grace Wollensack of the Falun Dafa group characterized many of the young students who turned out to support Hu as naive pawns of a Chinese government that flouts human rights.
"This has a motive. It's not a pure welcoming," she said, as fellow protesters waved Tibetan flags.
"We're not against China. We're against the persecution."
There was no joint press conference with Harper and Hu, unlike most state visits with world leaders in Ottawa.
"On our side, we would have been more than happy to answer a few questions from reporters," Soudas said, directing further questions to the Chinese Embassy.
An embassy worker attempted to check credentials of Canadian journalists as they entered Rideau Hall.
Inside the residence of the Governor General, a red-carpet had been laid out for Hu as he arrived for a special welcoming ceremony. He quickly inspected a guard of honour in their scarlet uniforms and tall bearskin hats.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, Conservative MP Daryl Kramp and Canada's ambassador to China, David Mulroney, were among the Canadian onlookers.
About two dozen officials from the Chinese Embassy huddled in one corner.
"Your visit to our country and our upcoming visit to yours show the extent of the enduring friendship that has existed between Canada and China for many years," said Jean, who departs on a six-day China trip next Wednesday.
"We hope that these visits will give rise to even more opportunities for exchanges between our two countries."
— With files from Jim Bronskill in Ottawa.