Tacoma was busy making final preparations Tuesday for a midweek visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A delegation that includes Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, is scheduled to arrive at Lincoln High School at 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to a press release from the Seattle public relations firm that’s helping coordinate the visit.
But Xi’s whirlwind swing through Tacoma falls at the end of busy afternoon, including visits to the Boeing plant in Everett at 11 a.m. and the Microsoft campus in Redmond at 3:15 p.m.
“These are estimated start times, and schedule is subject to change, based on the president’s priorities,” according to the release from PR firm Porter Novelli.
The city is warning of mid- to late-afternoon traffic delays, detours and closures around Lincoln and in parts of downtown, as well as limited access to the Interstate 5, 705 and state Route 7 interchanges.
Signs have been posted around the Lincoln District on streets where parking won’t be allowed from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Fliers also were circulated to residents and business owners.
But Tacoma police, school and other officials are keeping a flexible posture, saying they know few details of an event being tightly controlled by Chinese authorities.
The uncertainty prompted at least one nearby private school to close Wednesday. Holy Rosary Regional School, located across I-5 from Lincoln, sent a note to parents Tuesday morning, citing concerns about protesters. It also mentioned neighborhood traffic problems compounded by construction-related closures of the Pacific and Tacoma Avenue bridges.
“There are too many concerns and unknown factors for the students, families, and staff for us to remain open,” the note said.
Protesters plan to start gathering at the post office near Lincoln around 8 a.m. and could number as many as 300, said Robert Tran, a member of the Vietnamese Community of Tacoma-Pierce County. He said the group has spread the word about Xi’s visit to its affiliates around Washington and Oregon.
The Tacoma School District has planned no schedule changes, except at Lincoln, where students will be dismissed at 2:05 p.m., said spokesman Dan Voelpel. There will be no sports or other afterschool activities at Lincoln.
“The school will be under control of the Secret Service,” he said.
About 300 pre-selected Lincoln students will be on hand when Xi arrives, Voelpel said, as well as Chinese students from Tacoma public and private schools.
On Tuesday, Xi met in Seattle with leaders from the U.S. and China and signed an agreement aimed at pushing cooperation on the use of clean tech businesses to combat climate change.
Gov. Jay Inslee along with fellow governors Rick Snyder of Michigan, Jerry Brown of California, Terry Branstad of Iowa and Kate Brown of Oregon all signed the agreement on use of clean tech businesses.
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Meetings with the governors and local Chinese officials came on the first day of Xi’s visit to the U.S. that includes a state dinner Friday with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
“We can be the core for our national leaders to learn from,” Snyder said, noting he has made five trips to China in five years.
Xi arrived in Seattle earlier in the day for talks on how U.S. and Chinese experts and businesses can collaborate on things such as nuclear energy and smarter electricity use.
Xi was to deliver a policy speech during a banquet Tuesday evening.
The visit comes a year after Xi and Obama announced their nations would cooperate to fight climate change.
“These are the largest economies in the world, and we’re the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, so improving cooperation and collaboration is really a necessity,” said Brian Young, Washington state director of economic development for the clean technology sector. “Second, it’s a huge business opportunity. Both sides recognize the opportunity for job creation.”
Chinese leaders at the meeting included Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun, Shandong Gov. Guo Shuqing and others.
U.S.-China cooperation on climate-change has been a warm and fuzzy point of relations between the superpowers.
In November 2009, Obama and then-President Hu Jintao formalized a renewable energy partnership, including the establishment of clean-energy research centers focused on electric vehicles, cleaner coal and water energy programs.
Last November, Obama and Xi announced that the countries would work together on climate change, with China announcing it would try to cap its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, or sooner if possible.
By contrast, hacking attacks on the U.S., said to be directed by Beijing; China’s moves to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea; and human rights issues have been sore spots.
The trip comes at a time when China’s economic growth has slowed considerably, and when the communist nation is overhauling its economy.
Some clean-tech firms in Washington state, which relies largely on hydropower and where natural gas is currently cheap, may find markets and investment in China sooner than they might domestically, he said.
Also Tuesday, TerraPower Inc., an energy company founded by Bill Gates, entered into an agreement with China National Nuclear Corp. to work together on next-generation nuclear power plant technology.
“The world does need a lot more energy and it needs reliable energy with zero CO2,” Gates, the former Microsoft CEO, said at the signing ceremony.
China invested a record $83 billion in renewable energy last year, according to the Frankfurt School’s Center for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance in Germany.
Supporters turned out in Seattle to welcome the Chinese president and other dignitaries traveling in his motorcade.
Wendy Hu, a native of Guangdong Province who has lived in Seattle for 20 years, brought her 11-year-old daughter, Anna Ni.
“China and the U.S. are good partners now, with Boeing and Microsoft,” Hu said. “I love both countries.”
Hundreds of protesters from the religious group Falun Gong demonstrated outside the federal courthouse, holding banners and banging drums as the motorcade passed.
Falun Gong says members are persecuted in China.
“It’s about compassion and tolerance,” said Sabrina Chang, 28, who traveled to Seattle with other Falun Gong practitioners for the protest.