Teng Hsiao-ping had never heard of the Osmonds. But that didn't faze America's popular family singing group who traveled all night from Manchester, England, and brushed up on their Chinese to greet him in his own tongue.
"We came from England to pay tribute," said Wayne Osmond to Teng at a dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Laughing at his own bungling of the Chinese language, he and the rest of the group recovered instantly with a rocking version of "I Got the Music in Me."
Right before he left for another reception, Teng went backstage, posed with the seven members of the Osmond family including teen idols Marie and Donny and marveled "at how people this beautiful could come out of one family."
Cho Lin, the vice premier's exuberant wife, stayed for the entire banquet given by the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association and the National Association of Chinese Americans. Before last night's event a polite rift ensued between the two groups over credit for the sponsorship. It is a rare occasion during a state visit for a foreign leader to attend a private dinner. But as the nearly 700 people filed into the hotel, there were no signs of any friction.
Many of the Chinese Americans stopped by a table covered with a red satin cloth and signed their names in Chinese characters. Terry Li, a travel agent who had come with a group of 20 from San Francisco, said: "This is a great occasion. None of us could have missed it."
By the ticket table there was mild pandemonium. "Don't crowd near the table," shouted a man in Mandarin Chinese. Victor Oyek, a medical student from Philadelphia, said he didn't mind the crush, adding: "This is a big event. We are just happy to be part of it."
In his speech, Teng expressed happiness, as well over the new diplomatic ties between China and the United States which brought him here to visit.
"Normalization of relations is a common victory for our two peoples -- a victory which is inseparable from the many years of work you yourselves have done," he told the crowd. "I wish to express to you our heartfelt thanks."
He spoke from a head table that had not been raised, and his small stature made it virtually impossible for people in the back of the cavernous ballroom to see him.
Even more gratifying than his thanks to the throng, though, were Teng's reassurances over a peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan and a more personal concern for the reunion of Chinese families here and in China.
"A most human night," glowed Lloyd Fong of New York City, president of the Sino-American Chamber of Commerce, who predicts a reunification with Taiwan as soon as the United States government begins to bring pressure.
"Thirty or 40 years ago, American soldiers would have died for them on Taiwan -- but not today," said Fong.
Among the guests were Chen-ning Yang, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and also president of the Association of Chinese Americans, Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii), film producer Otto Preminger, Paul Robeson Jr. and Carmalita Hinton, the 88-year-old founder of Vermont's Putney School.
Entertaining her own group of fans, Hinton spoke of "the times I went to China and that wasn't very popular here. My passport was once confiscated by the U.S. government." Her granddaughter, Carma Hinton, 28, translated for Teng last night.
Some of the guests had come from as far away as Hawaii, and included people from Chinese communities in Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Georgia.
Tina Chan, 16, had cut classes at her high school in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I felt it was a historic meeting," she said, adding that the younger people who had been demonstrating against Teng's visit were "entitled to their views but I think this new friendship is going to work."
David Chen of Atlanta, who like many in the crowd has relatives on Taiwan, said reunification is inevitable -- "something's got to take place. We feel it's not an emotional issue." He said he had not expected Teng to be "so warm and so open to us Chinese here in the United States."
Henry Yang of La Grange, Ill., who had flown here with a group of 30 Chinese Americans, said he has not seen China since 1948 -- "the old China but now I'm dying to see the new China."
As they have throughout their stay here, Teng and his wife received not just spoken sentiments but also tangible soubenirs. Unita Blackwell, the mayor of Mayersville, Miss., and an official of the Friendship Association, managed to get in a minority history lesson as well. Presenting a blue rug by an American Indian tribe, Blackwell said, "Some native Americans believe that they crossed from North America to Asia 20,000 or so years ago. Which may explain the origin of the Chinese people." Teng and his wife laughed.