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G-20 Summit in Hangzhou: City Gets Makeover for World Leaders

HANGZHOU, China — Workers clad bright orange suits spent the week scrubbing the streets spotless in this city of more than 8 million people ahead of the looming G-20 summit.

Building facades have also been spruced up, roads newly paved and piles of garbage removed from sidewalks in areas that world leaders and other foreign visitors might never even see.

Image: G-20 preparations in Hangzhou, China
A young woman walks past a G-20 sign in Hangzhou, China, on Friday. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP - Getty Images

Colorful “Welcome to Hangzhou” posters are plastered across downtown and billboard signs remind residents that their home is a city of “warm hospitality" that is "civilized and polite.”

The multi-million-dollar makeover is only one way that Chinese officials aim to ensure the city is remembered precisely like that.

The government implemented tighter security measures at airports, train stations, ports and on highways leading into Hangzhou — as part of new anti-terror regulations for large events that were introduced in January.

As President Barack Obama arrived in Hangzhou Saturday for his 10th G-20 meeting and 11th visit to Asia since taking office in 2009, the Chinese government hopes to highlight its standing as a global economic power.

Image: Clay figures of world leaders
Clay figures showing (from bottom right) President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as other world leaders are displayed at a shop in the G-20 summit host city of Hangzhou, China. Ng Han Guan / AP

Beijing insists the summit's main focus should be on trade and investment, not on controversial issues such as the South China Sea dispute.

“If we want to do something successfully we must focus on it wholeheartedly, so the Hangzhou summit must focus on economic issues, on how to achieve sustainable, robust and balanced growth,” Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong told reporters last month.

Other major topics on Obama's agenda during the summit will be cyber-security, the fight against terrorism, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

Shop and restaurant owners were more concerned with the impact temporary, government-imposed restrictions were having on their businesses than what would be discussed at the high-level talks.

With the school year starting a week later than usual due to the summit, many Hangzhou residents have left for extended vacations — leaving the city feeling a bit more like a ghost town than usual.

Image: Cai Jinfeng
Cai Jinfeng. Andy Eckardt / NBC News

“We did not sell much on normal work days, but now ... it is even worse,” said Cai Jingfeng, who runs a small kiosk in the heart of the city.

On what would normally be a very busy street corner, Wu Dengneng greeted passersby with a smile.

The 29-year-old computer science teacher is one of nearly 50,000 volunteers recruited for the event.

Image: Wu Dengneng
Wu Dengneng. Andy Eckardt / NBC News

He received training in basic first aid and is manning an intersection where he is tasked with speaking to anyone who “has questions or needs help.”

Despite being asked only twice all day for assistance, Wu hopes for some payback in the end.

“Maybe, if I am lucky, I will see President Obama pass by,” he said.