Xi Jinping: is UK right to roll out the red carpet for China?
Howls of China's prisoners will haunt the royal welcome warn critics, as president arrives in UK
This week's state visit by China's President Xi Jinping has divided opinion on whether the UK should be welcoming the Chinese leader with such "pomp and ceremony" or using its diplomatic powers to push for human rights reforms.
Xi, who arrived last night, will stay at Buckingham Palace, ride in a royal carriage, address both Houses of Parliament and visit Manchester United Football Club.
But his trip is also expected to be marked by protests against China's human rights abuses and concerns about China's state-owned companies having a major role in UK nuclear power.
The visit has also been overshadowed by growing concern over China's impact on the UK steel industry, says City AM. The UK government has announced £30bn worth of new trade and investment deals, "despite escalating concerns that the UK steel industry is crumbling at the hands of Chinese manufacturers", says the newspaper.
Others fear the UK's new "golden era" with China will harm its special relationship with the US – a claim that Prime Minister David Cameron has been quick to dismiss.
The US is deeply suspicious of China over issues such as cyber espionage and territorial disputes in the South China Sea and has previously complained about the UK's "constant accommodation" of China, says the Financial Times. The UK's "uncritical charm offensive" towards Beijing this week in pursuit of commercial gain is likely to "intensify US concerns".
Author Ma Jian says he hopes the "howls of China's prisoners" will haunt the royal welcome.
Writing in The Guardian, he says the UK government's "open arms and shameless sycophancy" insult the people of both countries, marking an "ignoble friendship that puts trade above human rights".
Foreign secretary Philip Hammond denies the government is being naive and says the UK is welcoming Xi with its "eyes wide open", while the Financial Times argues that Britain is right to roll out the red carpet. Xi's visit promises to be "the most important diplomatic visit to Britain in several years" and is set to mark a "fundamental recalibration in the UK's great power relations", says the newspaper.
"Sharp differences between the two countries' political systems, diplomatic alliances and attitudes toward human rights suggest that no matter how well choreographed the current mood of bonhomie may be, future ruptures are virtually assured," concludes the FT. "Nevertheless, the size of the potential commercial opportunity is such that the UK is justified in rolling out the reddest of red carpets for the Chinese Communist leader this week."
Meanwhile, Chinese media has "unleashed a propaganda barrage" in time for Xi's visit, says the newspaper. State media websites and newspapers are covered with images of Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan at Heathrow airport, as well as the large Union Jacks and Chinese flags lining the road to Buckingham Palace.
"Ties between China and the Western world will experience a special breakthrough," announced China's Global Times. "The British government has used the term 'golden time' to describe the future ties between China and the UK. This is so far the most optimistic description from most Western countries over their relations with China. The attitude revealed exceeds the past boundaries of China's diplomatic relations with the West, while indicating a new political norm between China and the West is about to be kicked off."