Pomp and pageantry welcome Xi to London

The Queen welcomes Chinese President Xi to London with a display of full British pageantry marking the official start of a four-day State visit.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (OCTOBER 20, 2015) (UK POOL) – Britain laid on a glittering welcome for Chinese President Xi Jinpeng on Tuesday (October 20), full of pomp and ceremony to mark the official start of the four-day State Visit.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were first greeted by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, before the Chinese guests made their way to Horse Guards Parade, where the Queen and Prince Philip were waiting.

After inspecting the guards, Xi joined the Queen in a golden carriage for a horse-drawn procession up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace, where Xi and his wife are staying.

Hailed as the beginning of a ‘golden era’ or ‘golden time’ in Sino-British relations, the visit, which will seal a host of business deals, has been criticised by activists who accuse Prime Minister David Cameron of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.

It has also ruffled feathers among some of Britain’s traditional allies, such as the United States, where Xi’s visit last month was tainted by friction over cyber-theft and Beijing’s moves in Asian maritime disputes.

But for Britain, the four-day visit is the culmination of a three-year charm offensive to show Britain “walking tall on the world stage”, in a government minister’s words. Cameron also hopes to attract investment in infrastructure, nuclear power and his government’s planned transformation of northern England.

Cameron and his government have been keen to keep human rights in the background of the visit and set a different tone after he angered Beijing in 2012 by meeting the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will raise human rights when he meets Xi on Tuesday, however, and on Monday (October 19) forced Cameron to say he would bring up the impact of cheap Chinese imports on struggling British steel-makers.

Britain has won praise from China for its discretion in dealing with human rights issues by raising them behind the scenes, a policy London says is more effective than hectoring Beijing publicly.