The Capitol Emerges From the Pope’s Glow to Welcome China’s Leader

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 9.11.50 AMJULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS Friday, September 25, 2015

Good Friday morning. The popes speech to Congress on Thursday brought several bursts of applause and made John A. Boehner cry, but it fell short of miraculously bringing the parties together. Though the pope then moved up the coast, Washington can keep out the red carpet: Hours after he left, another world leader, one who might as well have come from a different world, arrived in town.

One rode around Washington in a humble motorcade featuring a small Fiat with the windows rolled down so he could wave to adoring onlookers; the other in a muscular-looking one featuring black limousines, their windows sealed. One eschewed the traditional 21-gun salute on the White House lawn; the other is eagerly anticipating it.

And while Pope Francis chose to break bread in Washington on Thursday with hundreds of homeless people, President Xi Jinping of China will be feasting on lamb and lobster at the White House on Friday night at a black-tie state dinner.

The visits of the bishop of Rome and the Chinese president to the nation’s capital came only hours apart, but they could not have been more different. The pope came bearing a message of peace and help for the least privileged, while Mr. Xi’s trip was choreographed to maximize the image of China as a great power worthy of respect and the highest measures of protocol from the leader of the free world.

Mr. Xi, of course, will get more face time with President Obama, starting on Thursday night with a two-hour private working dinner at Blair House across from the White House. China’s president will receive the same sort of ceremonial welcome – on a red carpet on the South Lawn, with a Marine band performing in the background – but his will feature the customary cannon-firing that is considered a military honor, something the White House skipped for a pope it said does not revel in “pomp and circumstance.”
Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said he hadn’t heard any concern from his delegation about Mr. Xi being overshadowed by the pope.
“Even the U.S. government attaches great importance” to Mr. Xi’s visit, Mr. Lu said, noting that the White House had announced the visit would happen seven months in advance. “It’s very rare.”