Banquets and tiaras: China reacts to Xi UK visit

A greeting for China's leader Xi Jinping flashes in London's Piccadilly Square
Image caption A greeting for China's leader Xi Jinping flashes in London's Piccadilly Square

A banquet at Buckingham Palace and the Duchess of Cambridge's choice of dress wowed Chinese social media users as President Xi Jinping began his state visit to the UK.

Mr Xi's milestone UK trip is dominating discussion on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, where it has been the biggest trending topic for three days.

Thousands of online netizens have been sharing their comments.

'Magic carriage ride'

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at Buckingham Palace by carriage

The grand arrival of Mr Xi at Buckingham Palace for a state dinner on Tuesday night drew a great deal of interest from China's micro-bloggers.

"Look - Xi's arrived in a golden carriage! It feels as if it's something out of a fairy tale. It looks so magical," commented Weibo user Huang Yubo.

Another, Tish Tosh, said: "They are really rolling out the red carpet for our president in London - it's nice to see."

Other netizens wondered how Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan made her way to dinner.

"Mr Xi, it's not nice to forget about your wife when you get to travel in style! Maybe she got there in her own black cab," remarked one user.

The Buckingham banquet

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The grand banquet was hosted on Tuesday night by the British royal family

Of course, one of the most popular Weibo posts surrounding Mr Xi's visit revolved around the grand state banquet at Buckingham Palace, which was hosted by members of Britain's royal family on Tuesday night.

Many on Weibo praised the decorations around the hall, and in particular, the night's colour scheme.

"Red and gold - really upscale and beautiful. The colours of the hall looked very auspicious to Chinese culture," said Gesang Pie.

User Heart Yunhua said: "Wow, Britain really knows how much we Chinese love red. A nice effort!"

But on Facebook some had reservations.

"Could it be just me or does Britain look like it's trying too hard to roll out all the stops just to impress China? These photos are a bit painful to look at," said Lee Li Pin.

"Money clearly talks. And this gala dinner just shows how Britain is selling out to Chinese power," commented another user on Facebook.

Other Chinese netizens speculated about what the dinner conversation would have been like.

"Do you think Xi would have highlighted his proud anti-corruption campaign in such a luxurious setting?" wondered one Weibo user.

The dinner menu

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Xi met with Queen Elizabeth II in London

Food has always been of great interest to the Chinese, and Tuesday night's dinner menu was no exception.

In a post on its official Weibo account, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV News uploaded snapshots of the dinner menu.

It drew positive reaction from some users, who praised the dishes.

"Venison and red cabbage - sounds exotic and expensive choices, fitting for an important occasion," said Weibo user Eugene 307.

But others were more critical.

"Why was a French menu served at a British banquet being hosted for the Chinese leader?" asked one user.

"I think it would have been nice if they had included some of their cultural delicacies for Xi - how often does he visit the UK anyway?" said another.

Kate's red dress and tiara

Image copyright Getty Images

While Chinese state media praised First Lady Peng Liyuan's choice of royal blue outfits during the trip, the Duchess of Cambridge dazzled Chinese netizens with her arrival in a pearl and diamond tiara.

"She looks beautiful, like how I imagine a princess to look like," commented Weibo user Ge Zhe Youth.

"I dare say she even stole the spotlight from Peng Liyuan," said another.

Other observers in China also had praise for her choice of evening dress.

"The colour of the gown is probably more important than all her jewellery combined," commented Chinese blogger Missus Meteor Hongfan. "Red is good fortune and it represents our country's flag. I think it was a very form of high respect from the Duchess to our leader visiting their country."

What about Tibet?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters from the 'Free Tibet' movement lined the roads outside Buckingham Palace during the state banquet for the Chinese leader

Criticism of prominent state media coverage is often heavily censored on Weibo, prompting overseas Chinese users to turn to other social media sites like Facebook to discuss Mr Xi's state visit.

Protesters from the Free Tibet movement were out in full force during the first leg of his trip.

The activists were demonstrating against China's occupation of Tibet as well as subsequent human rights abuses.

"This is one of the most pressing issues that has to be addressed, and you can be assured that nothing will be done about that," said Facebook user Duarte Martens.

Quick checks on Weibo also showed no sign of protesters from the Free Tibet movement, who rallied outside Buckingham Palace during the state dinner.

Another commented: "Chinese state media has done its job to censor any mention of Tibet on Weibo. I hope the West will not follow suit."

"Gala dinner celebrations are all high grand, but I see no mention or sign of the Tibet protesters anywhere," said Chinese Facebook user Sook Ying in London. "I wonder how hard Xi had to look the other way to avoid seeing them."

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