Britain and China are becoming “increasingly interdependent” parts of a “community of shared interests”, Chinese President Xi Jinping told MPs and peers in an address to both Houses of Parliament yesterday.
Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Xi said he believed his four-day State visit to the UK was helping to lift the friendly relationship between the two countries to “a new height”.
The address, in the lavish surroundings of Parliament’s Royal Gallery, was a high point of the first state visit by a Chinese leader for ten years.
Mr Xi, who spent his first full day in the UK yesterday, said: “Although my visit has just started, I am already deeply impressed by the vitality of China-UK relations and the profound friendship between our peoples.
“This gives me good reason to believe that my visit will lift the friendly ties between our two countries to a new height.”
Mr Xi said that the experience of giving his address in the historic Parliament gave him “the feeling of going back in time”. He acknowledged that the British parliament was the oldest in the world, but added: “In China, the concept of putting people first and following the rule of law emerged in the ancient times.”
In an 11-minute speech, the President quoted Shakespeare as well as ancient Chinese proverbs, and referenced the involvement of Chinese troops in the Normandy landings in the Second World War.
His audience included not only Prime Minister David Cameron and Commons Speaker John Bercow, but also Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson, Home Secretary Theresa May and other senior MPs.
“Although China and the UK are located at opposite ends of the Eurasian continent, we have a long shared deep mutual affection,” he said. “Since the founding of new China in 1949, our two countries have led the way in a number of areas in terms of bilateral relations.”
Britain was the first Western power to recognise the new People’s Republic and the first EU member to establish a strategic partnership with China, and the first major Western country to apply for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, he said. It is now the leading offshore trading centre, apart from Hong Kong, for China’s renminbi currency and hosts more Chinese students than any other EU country.
“It is fair to say that China and the UK are increasingly interdependent and becoming a community of shared interests,” added Mr Xi.
Mr Xi said ties between the two nations had been driven by “mutual understanding, support and friendship”. He highlighted how 24 Chinese naval cadets took part in the Normandy landings and received personal thanks from Winston Churchill for their gallantry.
Earlier, the Queen formally welcomed the Chinese president to the UK. The pomp and pageantry of the Armed Forces’ prestigious ceremonial units were on display to greet the Chinese leader, whose visit has been hailed by Mr Cameron as an “important moment” in the relations between the two nations.
Mr Xi’s four-day trip is expected to set the seal on more than £30 billion of trade and investment deals.
The Queen, the Duke, Mr Xi and First Lady Madame Peng viewed an exhibition of items from the Royal Collection in the Picture Gallery.
Philip gestured to an aquatint portrait of Emperor Qianlong from 1795 and told Mr Xi: “There’s one of your predecessors.”
Protesters in clashes after being thrown together
Protesters planning to shine a spotlight on human rights violations clashed with pro-China supporters yesterday during a procession in London welcoming the Chinese president to the UK.
Members of the Anti-China Free Tibet group and those in favour of the visit were seen pushing and shoving as demonstrators were placed together.
Many ignored the police perimeter set up for those from the Free Tibet group as well as Amnesty UK and other groups opposing the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
As the procession drew closer, protesters were at loggerheads, with traditional Chinese drums drowning out the Free Tibet demonstrators. Police scrambled to extend a temporary perimeter designated for those from Free Tibet as the two sides became mixed in together.
One man was blocking protesters as police attempted to calm both sides. While it was not violent, lots of pushing and shoving from both sides meant police had to intervene.
One 81-year-old Free Tibet protester was threatened with arrest after failing to move when told by police.
Refusing to give her name, she said she “couldn’t believe this is Britain”. Campaigners from Free Tibet, Amnesty UK and other groups gathered near the George VI memorial in St James’s Park near The Mall to demonstrate as Xi Jinping passed by in a state carriage procession to Buckingham Palace on the first day of his official four-day stay.
Earlier pro-Chinese supporters had interrupted an Amnesty UK photocall criticising China’s human rights record.
Talon Li, a Chinese finance student, arrived at 5.30am. He said: “UK and China will really help each other. They should stay friends - every British and Chinese person can be friends.”