, LONDON, United Kingdom, Oct 18 – Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a four-day visit to Britain on Tuesday in which human rights issues are to be eclipsed by lavish ceremony and hardnosed business talk heralding a “golden era” in ties.
An Asian superpower with deep pockets and international ambitions on one side and a European financial hub keen on attracting investment on the other – the scene is set for a UK-China love story.
But Prince Charles will not attend an official banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in what is being seen as a snub by the Dalai Lama-friendly heir to the throne.
And Jeremy Corbyn, the outspoken new leader of the opposition Labour Party, could also ask Xi some tough questions about dissidents and media censorship.
But these concerns are likely to remain secondary as Britain rolls out the red carpet for Xi, who will get a carriage ride to Buckingham Palace and will address British parliamentarians at the Houses of Parliament.
Xi is bringing along a retinue of bankers and businessmen which could include Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and a string of contracts are expected to be signed during the visit.
The state visit is the first since then-president Hu Jintao came in 2005 and both British Prime Minister David Cameron and China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, have said it will herald a “golden era” in relations.
Britain “is becoming the leader in Europe and indeed in the West” in its relations with China, Xiaoming said, while Cameron lauded increased trade ties.
“We encourage investment, and China is investing more in Britain now than other European countries,” Cameron told Chinese state television.