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Xi Jinping visit: Chinese leader given ceremonial welcome

 

Mr Xi welcomed to the UK by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh

China’s President Xi Jinping is receiving a ceremonial welcome by the Queen as he begins the first full day of his visit to the UK.

Mr Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, took part in a procession along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where a state banquet will be held later.

The UK government said engaging with China was in the “national interest”.

The visit comes amid job losses in the UK steel sector, with cheap Chinese imports among factors being blamed.

Tata Steel has announced the latest in a series of cuts, with 1,200 jobs going at its plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will raise the steel issue in talks with Mr Xi.

41-gun salute

The Chinese leader was welcomed by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and David Cameron during the ceremony in Horse Guards Parade, while a 41-gun salute was held in Green Park.

He then took part in a carriage procession along The Mall, as he headed to Buckingham Palace for lunch with the Queen.

Ministers expect more than £30bn of trade and investment deals to be struck during the four-day visit, which will also include talks between Mr Xi and Prime Minister David Cameron.

On Tuesday, Mr Xi will also:

  • Address MPs and Lords at the Palace of Westminster
  • Meet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as well as the Duke of Cambridge
  • Hold talks with Mr Cameron and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn
  • Attend the state banquet

 

Mr Xi given guard of honour
Prince Charles held talks with the Chinese president at a hotel in central London
Troops of the Foot Guards

The Queen and China's President Xi Jinping

This was a British royal welcome for the president of a nation which for much of its history was ruled by emperors.

The two countries’ shared past — from the Chinese perspective — is littered with injustices, not least the Opium Wars. Today is about the shared future.

The Chinese, their officials say, tend to look forward. Just as well, given that their royal hosts include Prince Charles who once referred to Chinese officials as “appalling old waxworks”; and Prince Philip who warned some British students in China in the 1980s that they’d get “slitty eyes” if they stayed there too long.

The future, the two countries will continue to emphasise, involves trade deals and a nuclear plant on British soil designed, built and operated by the Chinese.

Others will focus on the human rights issues in a powerful country where free speech is suppressed.

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Protests have been held on The Mall by members of the Anti-China Free Tibet group and the human rights group Amnesty International, to coincide with the visit.

Amid pressure to bring up China’s record on human rights during political talks, a Downing Street spokeswoman said “nothing is off the table”.

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She said she expected China’s cheap pricing of steel on the world market to be discussed.

China’s human rights record and the threat from cyber attacks were also likely to come up during two planned rounds of “substantial” talks, she added.

Mr Xi will also address both Houses of Parliament later and meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Treasury hopes to establish China within 10 years as Britain’s second biggest trading partner.

However, critics have accused the government of “kowtowing” to Beijing.

“If you act like a panting puppy, the object of your attention is going to think they have got you on a leash,” James McGregor, chairman of consultancy group APCO Worldwide’s Chinese operations, said.

Mr Hammond denied the government was being naive, saying it was “very much in our national interest to engage with China”.

“I think we are developing a mature relationship with the Chinese,” he said.

“They know that we are looking not just to China but to many other countries for infrastructure investment in the UK.”

The trip – the first UK state visit by a Chinese leader since 2005 – has been hailed by officials from both countries as the start of a “golden era” of relations.

Chinese companies are to be allowed to take a stake in British nuclear power plants, and a trip by Mr Xi and Mr Cameron to Manchester later in the week is expected to see the announcement of further investment in the so-called “Northern powerhouse” project.

But the visit comes as China’s economy grew by just 6.9% in the third quarter, the weakest rate since the global financial crisis.


China and the UK

The Mall

The state banquet will be attended by members of the Royal Family – including Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge – as well as Mr Cameron and Mr Corbyn.

Prince Charles, a friend of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, will not be attending, but no official reason has been given for his absence.

China’s ambassador to the UK said he doubted Mr Corbyn would raise the issue of human rights at the banquet, but the Labour leader’s spokesman said he would be “using the opportunity” of Mr Xi’s visit to raise his concerns.


China state visit: At a glance

Woman holding Chinese flag

Tuesday

  • Ceremonial welcome
  • House of Parliament address
  • State banquet at Buckingham Palace

Wednesday

  • Imperial College London visit
  • Meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street

Thursday

  • Visit global satellite communication services company
  • Dinner at Chequers

Friday

  • University of Manchester visit
  • Event at Manchester Airport before departure

 

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