China's propaganda machine has cranked into top gear as Chinese President Xi Jinping takes a grand tour of Britain, with media lauding the "super state tour" as a "breakthrough" in U.K.-Chinese relations.
State-run news agency Xinhua wrote on Tuesday of the "royal welcome" afforded to Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, also noting a "103 guns salute - set off for China."
At the same time, the Global Times, a local newspaper that is known to be fiercely pro-government, had the headline "London rolls out the reddest carpet to welcome Xi Jinping" splashed across its front page alongside a picture of Union Jacks and Chinese flags lining the road to Buckingham Palace.
The full-page article said U.K.-China relations had "never been this good" and described the Chinese leader's visit as a "breakthrough." Other headlines focused on the "exceptionally high standard" with which Xi had been received by Britain.
The commentary is in contrast to China's view of the reception given to Premier Li Keqiang when he visited London in 2014, a visit marred by reports in the U.K. media that Beijing had complained the red carpet greeting Li at Heathrow airport was too short, and that China had threatened to cancel the visit if Li was not permitted to meet the Queen.
This time, the positive coverage has spilled over into social media, with the official Twitter accounts of various Chinese media outlets tweeting live updates of the day's events, complete with pictures, under the hashtags #XiJinping and #XiUKVisit. Xinhua News and People's Daily both changed their Twitter header images to pictures of President Xi standing beside Queen Elizabeth II.
On Weibo – China's biggest microblogging platform – the topic "Xi Jinping visits Britain" was among Wednesday's top trending topics, with a majority of the conversations marked by more than a tinge of patriotism.
One user called Xmjungsis wrote: "The U.K. is a lot more sincere than the U.S." Another user, Ruikun, said: "This is the sign of China becoming powerful and formidable. You can never imagine this before."
Xi and his wife arrived in London on Monday evening Asia time for his first state visit to the U.K. amid warming ties between the two nations.
On Tuesday, Xi was treated to a formal Horse Guards Parade in central London and rode in a horse-drawn carriage to Buckingham Palace, where the leader and his wife had lunch with the Queen and her husband Prince Philip.
In an address later to the U.K. parliament, the Chinese President said he was "impressed" by the "friendly" relations between the two countries, adding that his visit will take UK-China ties to "new heights."
After meeting Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Chinese leader attended a lavish state banquet at Buckingham Palace that was attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron and members of the Royal Family.
While Prince Charles' absence at the state banquet sparked speculation that the heir to the throne deliberately skipped the event due to his relationship with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a royal source told Reuters that Prince Charles would actually spend more time with Xi than any other royal during this state visit.
Peng Mama's winning style
The fashion style of Mrs Xi Jinping, affectionately referred by the Chinese as "Peng Mama," has also received prominent coverage in her home country.
Since embarking on her role as China's first lady in 2013, Peng has been named alongside U.S.'s Michelle Obama as the "First ladies of fashion", for incorporating Chinese design details such as mandarin collars into her outfits.
In China, articles analyzing Peng's choice of outfits in the U.K. were aplenty, while Peng's preference for sharply tailored blazers over feminine dresses also scored praise from the English media, with the usually acerbic Daily Mail calling her style choices a "fashion hat trick.'
Meanwhile, netizens took to Weibo to compliment the former soprano.
"Oh my god, Peng Liyuan is gorgeous. She is China's No. 1 fashion icon," user Baijiao wrote, while another called Mandy noted that Peng looked "awsome" and ZZ said "Peng Liyuan's dress is very suitable for the occasion."
— Haze Fan contributed to this report