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Xi gets warm welcome at UK banquet

Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 00:55

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at a Buckingham Palace banquet. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Chinese President Xi Jinping was the guest of honour at an extravagant banquet laid on by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday (October 20) at the beginning of Xi's pomp-laden state visit to Britain that should seal more than $46 billion of deals but drew criticism from rights campaigners. Britain rolled out the red carpet for Xi, welcoming him with a 41-gun salute before he rode to Buckingham Palace in a gilded carriage with Queen Elizabeth. At a state banquet, the queen called his visit a special moment for a relationship which should reach "ambitious new heights". Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to cement a lucrative place for Britain as China's closest friend in the West and win investment in infrastructure, nuclear power and in the government's transformation of northern England. Hailed as the start of a "golden era" in Sino-British ties, the visit has been criticised by activists who accuse Cameron of turning a blind eye to rights abuses, including what they call a crackdown on civil liberties since Xi came to power in 2012. However, 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. For Britain, the four-day state visit is the culmination of a three-year charm offensive, led by finance minister George Osborne who set out his strategy in 2013 by saying: "China is what it is. We have to be here or nowhere." Britain said more than 30 billion pounds worth of deals would be signed during the visit, creating some 3,900 jobs. The expected flagship deal is a plan for two state-owned Chinese utilities to invest in a 16 billion pound nuclear power project being built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England. The Queen said that the relationship between Britain and China was now a truly global partnership. "Your visit is a defining moment in this very special year for our bi-lateral relationship. I am confident that it will serve to highlight the sincerity and warmth of our friendship and to strengthen relations between our countries for many years to come," she said before raising a toast to President Xi and the Chinese people. Cameron has said he will not duck sensitive issues such as the impact of cheap Chinese imports on struggling British steel-makers when he meets Xi on Wednesday (October 21), and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, raised human rights at his meeting with the Chinese leader on Tuesday. Xi may express China's hopes that the European Union remains united - a thorny subject for Cameron, who has pledged to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union before a referendum to be held by the end of 2017. But any such sour notes, including heir to the throne Prince Charles' decision to not attend the banquet, are unlikely to spoil a visit that has been long in the making.

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Xi gets warm welcome at UK banquet

Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 00:55