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China media laud Xi’s British visit

October 22, 2015

Chinese media Thursday trumpeted President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain, running triumphant coverage of the trip at odds with Western accusations that London has sold out to the Asian giant.

Editorial pages in the United States and Britain have lambasted Downing Street for abandoning human rights concerns in favour of improved trade relations with the world’s second largest economy, but Chinese state media praised British “pragmatism”.

Front pages across the country featured glamorous pictures of President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan with British politicians and royalty, opulently illustrating what the governments have described as a “new golden era” between the nations.

The “ultra-state visit” put on for Xi featured the best of everything, according to a breathless commentary in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, which portrayed the trip as the start of a beautiful friendship.

Britain is seeking increased trade, investment and international influence from its relationship with China, it said, and “the two countries should eliminate all disturbances, and seize the moment to deepen the development of their bilateral relations”.

It suggested that London may in the future even support Beijing on the UN Security Council.

British business deals with China, including in such sensitive sectors as nuclear power, should set an example for other countries, according to an editorial in the Global Times, which is close to the ruling party.

The tone is dramatically different to Chinese media declarations when relations between the two countries soured after Prime Minister David Cameron met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama during a 2012 visit to London.

That tete-a-tete “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”, Beijing said, and the chairman of China’s legislature, Wu Bangguo, abruptly cancelled a trip to Britain.

The high-level freeze lasted for over a year. When Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to China in 2013 hoping to patch up relations, an editorial in the Global Times mocked Britain for being “an old European country”, useful only for “travel and study”.

The paper intensified the rhetoric the following year after reports that the British foreign ministry had resisted a request from Premier Li Keqiang for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth.

“A rising country should understand the embarrassment of an old declining empire and at times the eccentric acts it takes to hide such embarrassment”, the paper wrote in an editorial.

London has since abandoned most public signs of confrontation with Beijing for a conciliatory approach that Western critics have condemned as “kowtowing”.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.