Barack Obama to grant Hu Jintao the state dinner denied by George W Bush

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Barack Obama will on Wednesday grant Hu Jintao, the president of China, the honour of a White House state dinner, in marked contrast to his previous visit to the US when George W Bush offered him only lunch.

Mr Obama will be hoping for an evening free of controversy as he returns the hospitality he was shown at a state dinner in Beijing on a visit in November 2009.

That trip proved awkward however, with Beijing making it clear it was either unwilling or unable to play the role of the co-operative superpower that Washington sought. Mr Obama faced criticism back home for "kowtowing" to the Chinese.

The Obama administration has since toughened its tone, complaining that the exchange rate of China's yuan is hindering the US economic recovery and criticising Beijing's human rights record.

China has meanwhile bristled at a visit by the Dalai Lama, the Tibet spiritual leader, to Washington, and US arms sales to Taiwan while North Korea has also exposed diplomatic fault lines.

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