Shell Lin gives an account of the Chinese President’s first state visit to the UK
The president of China, Xi Jinping, attended the opening ceremony of the UK Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms Annual Conference at UCL on 22 October, as part of his 5-day official visit to UK.
This is the third time that a Chinese president has visited the UK. The last time was when former Chinese President Hu Jintao made his visit in 2005. This year, President Xi announced more than £30 billion worth of trade and investment deals signed with the UK, and a new visa policy that will extend the length of Chinese visitor visas to the UK from six months to two years.
He was welcomed with extra enthusiasm by Chinese students from many universities in London. On 21 October, many headed towards Buckingham Palace to see him and flooded social media with photos of him.
That morning, UCL Chinese students organised by CSSA (Chinese Students and Scholars Association) arrived near St. James’ Park at 5am. In their allocated places, they waited to see Xi joining the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on a state carriage processing along the Mall to Buckingham Palace later on that day.
Heshi Li, a second-year student from the University of Westminster, said:
“At 8am, I heard someone said they would come at 10am. At 10am, another one said they would be here on 11:40am… I stood for almost 6 hours with my legs all tired.”
Soon afterwards, a spontaneous celebration swept the fatigue away. An audience who had brought a speaker started to play some songs of Peng Liyuan, president Xi’s wife and a famous singer. Dragon Dance players performed in red and yellow costumes in the crowd. Many local Chinese societies came dressed up, with ladies in Qipao and men in suits.
At around 12:30pm, the Queen’s carriage arrived, with President Xi’s carriage proceeding onto the Mall half an hour later.
Chinese students and immigrants, curious British citizens, and journalists waved Chinese and British flags on both sides of the road.
During the whole welcome ceremony, many Chinese songs loudly soared up in the crowd, with an air of nostalgia. During the waiting time, Chinese students sang songs about the communist party and Chinese revolution that they learned in primary school.
As soon as president Xi arrived, the crowd sang the national anthem of China. This was one of the day’s most memorable moments for many Chinese students who were there; the event created a sense of community and home for them during their time abroad.
Heshi Li continued: “I came to see more fellow Chinese here, as it was hard to meet any at school. Seeing President Xi in this foreign country really made me feel at home.”
Fan An, a graduate student in UCL, came to the event out of curiosity for British ceremonies and traditions. She said: “It’s a rare opportunity since occasions as big as this one only happen twice a year in UK. The atmosphere is not something you can get online or on TV.”
She proudly added: “by the way, Uncle Xi and Mama Peng look great!”
Featured image credit: Richard Pohle / Reuters, www.rt.com