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Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Microsoft, sees potential of new technology

Microsoft hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, First Lady Peng Liyuan and a high-level Chinese delegation Wednesday at its Redmond campus, where the company highlighted new technology and the role technology can play in advancing health, education and business.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella welcomed President Xi at the company’s Executive Briefing Center, where U.S. and Chinese flags adorned the building and banners lined the streets.

In welcoming the president, Nadella talked about his optimism for technology’s potential to help tackle big challenges, in which he said an increased global partnership is essential to advance technology in an array of areas, from health care to energy to data sciences. He said Microsoft agrees with previous statements by Xi and President Obama on the importance of “cultivating a relationship between China and the United States based on cooperation and mutual respect.”

“What is even more important though is what lies ahead,” Nadella said. “I’m reminded today of the many students I met during my visit to China last year. I am optimistic they will do great things in their lifetimes, and their journey in part depends on the journey of our nations.”

During his visit to Microsoft, Xi met with senior executives and board members, watched technology demos and reviewed innovative new devices. Xi met briefly with CEOs of technology companies who attended a meeting of the U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum earlier in the day. He also met privately with Bill and Melinda Gates.

Xi’s visit was part of a stop in Washington state, at the invitation of Gov. Jay Inslee, given the state’s economic, cultural and academic ties to China. Washington is the biggest exporter to China among U.S. states, with exports totaling $20.7 billion last year.

Microsoft has had a presence in China for more than 20 years, which now includes the company’s largest R&D facility outside the United States. Long committed to building strong partnerships and products for Chinese customers, Microsoft announced in recent days a number of new partnerships with Chinese customers and partners, including UniGroup, Baidu, CETC, Xiaomi, Shanghai Media Group, the Sichuan province and the Xi’xian New Area, a special development zone.

During the visit, Harry Shum, Microsoft executive vice president of Technology and Research, provided a demonstration of Microsoft HoloLens, the world’s most advanced holographic computer, and of real-time data virtualization on an 84-inch Surface Hub powered by Windows 10. Xi also viewed a showcase of innovative Windows 10 devices enabled by Microsoft’s investment in the China Technology Ecosystem in Shenzhen.

Xi presented a dawn redwood tree as a gift to interim University of Washington president Ana Mari Cauce and Tsinghua University president Qiu Yong to commemorate their announcement of the Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX, a new science and technology institute. A “living fossil” native to China, the tree will be planted on the GIX campus when it opens in Bellevue, Wash.

With $40 million in foundational support from Microsoft, the academic institute will educate the next generation of innovators and is the first time a Chinese research university has established a physical presence in the United States.

“This institute will create the opportunity for students from our two countries not only to learn about each other, but also to learn from each other. It will give them the opportunity to learn while working on many of society’s most complicated scientific and technological challenges. We at Microsoft are committed to not only planting this new tree, but to helping its branches grow,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said.

Nadella also presented a gift to Xi — a 3D-printed model of the Liulinhai, a historic Chinese ship that docked in Seattle in 1979, the year the United States and China officially established diplomatic relations. The 635-foot cargo ship was the first Chinese vessel to arrive in the United States after 1949, signaling a new era in the countries’ bilateral relationship.

“We hope that your visit this week will help advance a spirit of partnership for both of our countries,” Nadella said to the president. “We’re aware, of course, of the governmental negotiations on a range of cooperative issues. We hope for tangible progress for both of our governments.”

Lead photo: Pictured left to right are Chinese President Xi Jinping, his translator and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft’s Redmond campus on Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by Brian Smale.