Pomp and pageantry greet Trump ahead of talks with Xi

Military marching bands and flag-waving children were part of the welcome.

BEIJING -- Prior to kicking off talks with his Chinese counterpart Thursday morning, President Donald Trump was given a grand red carpet welcome -- complete with military marching bands and throngs of Chinese school children excitedly waved flags of both countries -- outside the Great Hall of the People at the western edge of Tiananmen Square.

Trump, the eighth U.S. president to visit China, seemed to be soaking it all up, chatting amiably with Chinese President Xi Jingping, repeatedly complimenting the ceremonial display and patting him on the back -- eight back-pats and three handshakes, to be exact.

As Trump reviewed the troops with Xi, walking long runs of red carpet crossing the square, first ladies Melania Trump and Mrs. Xi looked on from the steps of the Hall.

Nearby were the members of the American delegation, including U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstadt, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Security Adviser HR McMaster, Whote House press secretary Sarah Sanders, Chief of Staff John Kelly and senior advisers Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks.

After the parade, the leaders climbed the steps of the Great Hall -- known here as "G-HOP" -- and looked out into Tiananmen Square before heading inside.