Chinese president to begin busy state visit to Britain

LONDON: Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to begin a four-day state visit to Britain on Monday as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will be hosted at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip and also receive an elaborate formal welcome and a carriage ride to the palace Tuesday.

Prime Minister David Cameron told Chinese Central Television the visit heralds a "golden era" between the two countries.

"It's a real opportunity to deepen our relationship and I'm delighted President Xi is spending so much time here," Cameron said, adding that Chinese investment in major British infrastructure projects is generating jobs in Britain.

The elaborately choreographed visit will also include a trip to the Manchester City football training grounds and a possible unscripted side trip to a pub to dine on that English classic, fish and chips.

The Chinese president plans to address both houses of Parliament on Tuesday before an elaborate state banquet at the palace.

Protests are expected throughout Xi's visit, which is scheduled to end Friday.

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has indicated a desire to discuss human rights with Xi when they meet at a palace banquet, but Chinese officials say they would be surprised if he raises the issue.

Prominent Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, a frequent critic of Chinese policies, is having a major exhibit of his works close to the palace at the Royal Academy of Arts.

The visit has a serious agenda as both governments are anxious to strengthen business ties despite wide differences over human rights policy. It follows a high profile visit to China by Treasury chief George Osborne, who seeks more Chinese investment.

The two governments are already cooperating on nuclear power development, with China making a major investment in a new plant in southeast England.

Prince William, who recently made an official visit to China, plans Monday to record a speech for broadcast on Chinese TV outlining the need to combat illegal wildlife trade.