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President Xi touches down in London

Updated: 2015-10-20 07:31
By WU JIAO, ZHANG CHUNYAN and CECILY LIU in London (China Daily)

President Xi touches down in London

President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, arrive at London's Heathrow Airport on Monday for a four day state visit to the United Kingdom. [Photo/Agencies]

"The royal kitchen may showcase native products within the menu, many of the fresh ingredients being sourced from the queen's royal estates," she said.

In addition to staying at the palace, Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan will be welcomed on Thursday at Chequers, a tranquil house in the countryside that has hosted foreign dignitaries since becoming the official retreat of prime ministers in 1921.

The visit to the neo-Gothicstyle estate, 50 km northwest of London in Buckinghamshire,is planned as a counterpoint to the official welcome and formal Downing Street meeting between Xi and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"The British have a long tradition of entertaining in their country houses where host and guest can enjoy peace and relaxation together and perhaps take part in country sports or other country pursuits,"said Peter Batey, who was the political private secretary of former prime minister Edward Heath.

"The use of Chequers for entertaining guests of the British state or government has a shorter history, but it is generally interpreted as a sign of particular warmth in a relationship.

"This is similar to the United States, where an invitation to Camp David, instead of or in addition to the White House, is reckoned a favorable sign," Batey said.

Michael Barr, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University who has written extensively about soft power, said that the gesture shows that Britain attaches great importance to its relationship with China.

"This could be seen as Britain responding to the US as much as it is to China. During Xi's first visit to the US, he met Obama at the Sunnylands ranch, which is a more informal, relaxed atmosphere. And during Xi's recent trip to the US he toured around extensively and was shown the red carpet, so to speak. In this respect, Britain is competing with the US. So if he (Cameron) didn't host Xi in a more relaxed environment, we'd be asking why not?" said Barr.

Like its US counterpart Camp David, Chequers has witnessed historic moments. Wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was informed of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor while dinning at the mansion with United States ambassador John Winant and special US envoy Averell Harriman.

Contact the writer at zhangchunyan@chinadaily.com.cn

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