Wednesday's opulent, black-tie affair with President Barack Obama - the grandest of White House soirees - will mark the first such event in China's honor in 13 years and could help smooth tensions between the world's two largest economies.
Some big questions remain: Who will cook? Who is coming to dinner? Can the White House avoid mistakes like those that marred the reception when a protocol-conscious Hu arrived for an April 2006 summit?
For starters, Hu was unhappy that President George W. Bush opted for lunch over a state dinner.
Wednesday's affair will return the hospitality that Obama was shown at a state dinner in Beijing on his November 2009 visit.
A personal relationship between the two leaders is important for cooperation on several pressing issues in the time left on both of their terms in office, Asia watchers say. The visit is probably the last to Washington as president for Hu, a hydroelectric engineer who has ruled since 2002. He is expected to relinquish his leadership of the Communist Party next year and the presidency the year after.