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Bush opens massive US embassy in China

world Updated: Aug 08, 2008 08:50 IST

President George W Bush opened a massive new US embassy in Beijing on Friday, one of America's biggest and a symbol of the growing importance of Washington's relationship with Beijing.

Embassy staff said Bush opened the concrete and glass building just days after the Chinese inaugurated their own sparkling new complex in Washington. He was in Beijing to attend the Olympics opening ceremony.

The structure's subdued tones are offset by an oversized technicolour tulip sculpture by US artist Jeff Koons, which sits in one of the ornamental pools filling the space between the outside wall and the main building.

Architects incorporated the pools into the safety specifications now required at all US embassies -- interior buildings must be at least 100 feet (30 metres) from the outside wall.

Koons's steel sculpture can be appreciated by passers-by in the city's northeast embassy district through low windows in the wall -- windows built to withstand a car bomb attack.

The old US embassy was the scene of riots by hundreds of Chinese protesters in 1999, in a rare protest permitted in the capital after the US bombed China's embassy in Belgrade.

The US embassy in Beijing is the third that Bush has opened during his presidency -- after Kabul and Kigali.

Planning began in the mid-1990s for the embassy, which brings together on one site US staff who were previously based at three compounds and embassy offices on 20 sites around Beijing.