UK rolls out red carpet for China's Xi on contentious visit

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UK rolls out red carpet for China's Xi on contentious visit
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II , right, greets Chinese President Xi Jinping, during the official ceremonial welcome for the Chinese State Visit, in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to address Britain's Parliament and dine with Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday as he began a state visit that is intended to cement close economic ties between the two countries â but risks being overshadowed by concerns over Beijing's growing economic clout in Britain. (Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP)
Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan greets dignitaries during the official welcome ceremony at Horse Guards Parade in London,Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Pro-China supporters perform a dragon dance behind a Queen's Guard during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping on October 20, 2015 in London, England. The President of the People's Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, are paying a State Visit to the United Kingdom as guests of The Queen. They will stay at Buckingham Palace and undertake engagements in London and Manchester. The last state visit paid by a Chinese President to the UK was Hu Jintao in 2005. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Supporters of Chinese President Xi Jinping stand under a large Chinese flag before the President passes by on a horse-drawn carriage with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on the Mall en route to Buckingham Palace in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping was welcomed as an honored guest Tuesday at Buckingham Palace and Britainâs Parliament, as the two countries toasted an economic alliance intended to give Britain a vast new pool of investment and China greater access to European markets. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Queen Elizabeth II attends the Official Ceremonial Welcome for the Chinese State Visit on October 20, 2015 in London, England. The President of the Peoples Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, are paying a State Visit to the United Kingdom as guests of The Queen. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, left , and the Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan watch as Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects a guard of honour during the official welcome ceremony at Horseguards Parade in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth introduces Chinese President Xi Jinping, 3rd left, to British officials and dignitaries during the official welcome ceremony at Horse Guards Parade in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool)
Chinese President Xi Jinping is escorted as he inspects a guard of honour during the official welcome ceremony at Horse Guards Parade in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant , Pool)
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, reviews the Honor Guard, on Horseguards Parade during the official ceremonial welcome for the Chinese State Visit, in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to address Britain's Parliament and dine with Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday as he began a state visit that is intended to cement close economic ties between the two countries â but risks being overshadowed by concerns over Beijing's growing economic clout in Britain. Britain's Prince Philip walks behind. (Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits in a carriage with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, as they travel through Horse Guards Parade, in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on the first official day of a state visit. Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to address Britain's Parliament and dine with Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday as he began a state visit that is intended to cement close economic ties between the two countries â but risks being overshadowed by concerns over Beijing's growing economic clout in Britain. (Jeremy Selwyn, Pool Photo via AP)
A protestor holds a Tibetan flag next to supporters of Chinese President Xi Jinping holding up a Chinese dragon and a Chinese flag before he passed by on a horse-drawn carriage with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on the Mall en route to Buckingham Palace in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: A pro-China activist holds a Chinese flag as he demonstrates near Parliament ahead of a visit by China's President, Xi Jinping on October 20, 2015 in London, England. The President of the People's Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, are paying a State Visit to the United Kingdom as guests of The Queen. They will stay at Buckingham Palace and undertake engagements in London and Manchester. The last state visit paid by a Chinese President to the UK was Hu Jintao in 2005. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, Oct. 20, 2015 -- Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, meets with British Prince William in London, Britain, Oct. 20, 2015. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 20: Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd, R) and China's First Lady Peng Liyuan (R) with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2nd, L) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (L) view a display of Chinese items from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace on October 20, 2015 in London, England. The President of the Peoples Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, are paying a State Visit to the United Kingdom as guests of The Queen. They will stay at Buckingham Palace and undertake engagements in London and Manchester. The last state visit paid by a Chinese President to the UK was Hu Jintao in 2005. (Photo by Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles, left greets Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, at a hotel in central London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on the first official day of a state visit. Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to address Britain's Parliament and dine with Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday as he began a state visit that is intended to cement close economic ties between the two countries â but risks being overshadowed by concerns over Beijing's growing economic clout in Britain. (Justin Tallis, Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prince Charles, left, sits with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, at a hotel in central London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on the first official day of a state visit. Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to address Britain's Parliament and dine with Queen Elizabeth II Tuesday as he began a state visit that is intended to cement close economic ties between the two countries â but risks being overshadowed by concerns over Beijing's growing economic clout in Britain. (Justin Tallis, Pool Photo via AP)
China's President Xi Jinping, right, and his wife Peng Liyuan,left, accompany Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as they arrive for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London, on the first full day of their state visit, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2015. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)
The Duchess of Cambridge and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a state banquet in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace, London, on the first day of the state visit to the Britain, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2015. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP)
China's President Xi Jinping addresses members of parliament and peers in Parliament's Royal Gallery, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in London, England. Britain and China toasted a "golden age" of relations Tuesday with a state visit festooned with regal pomp and pageantry but overshadowed by concerns about national security, human rights and economic rivalry. (Dan Kitwood/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II speaks at a state banquet in honour of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace, London, on the first day of the state visit to the Britain, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2015. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, London, on the first day of the state visit to Britain, Tuesday Oct. 20, 2015. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP)
A Chinese dance group supporting Chinese President Xi Jinping, perform on Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament where he was giving a speech in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Human rights demonstrators stand beneath a protest banner bearing an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping on Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament, where he was giving a speech in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Pro-China and Tibetan independence activists demonstrate near Parliament ahead of a visit by China's President, Xi Jinping on October 20, 2015 in London, England. The President of the People's Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, are paying a State Visit to the United Kingdom as guests of The Queen. They will stay at Buckingham Palace and undertake engagements in London and Manchester. The last state visit paid by a Chinese President to the UK was Hu Jintao in 2005. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
A supporter of Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a Chinese flag outside the Houses of Parliament where he was giving a speech in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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LONDON (AP) — China's leader quoted Chinese proverbs and William Shakespeare while Britain's prime minister hailed a "golden age" between the two nations as a state visit festooned with regal pomp and pageantry was shadowed by concerns about national security, human rights and economic rivalry.

President Xi Jinping's trip, years in the making, aimed to cement deals giving Britain a vast new pool of investment and China greater access to European markets. But as Xi was welcomed Tuesday as an honored guest at Buckingham Palace and Parliament, critics warned that Britain was taking a risk by courting Beijing so aggressively.

"If you act like a panting puppy, the object of your attention is going to think they have got you on a leash," James McGregor, a China expert at consulting firm APCO, told the BBC.

Some British politicians, businesspeople and union members are alarmed by growing Chinese investment in key sectors of the British economy, including nuclear power, and by Chinese competition in areas such as steel production.

Hundreds of U.K. steel layoffs were announced Tuesday, the first full day of Xi's four-day visit, in a crisis that manufacturers blame on China selling steel at a loss on world markets to secure its own market share.

Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to confront Xi about the steel industry and human rights, but China's leader was welcomed to London with lavish tradition and military pomp — a genre at which both Britain and China excel.

Xi was greeted with a 41-gun artillery salute before being driven to Buckingham Palace, where he and his wife Peng Liyuan will stay, in a gilded carriage drawn by white horses.

Thousands lined the route to see Xi go by. Demonstrators from human rights and pro-Tibet groups jostled with a much larger group of Xi well-wishers whose chants of "China! China!" drowned out their rivals' shouts of "Shame!" and "Free Tibet!"

Among the protesters was dissident Chinese lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng, who urged British leaders not to ignore human rights in favor of trade. He told the BBC that while trade is important, human rights are "like air and water, and no one can live without it."

The small protests and larger crowds of supporters followed Xi to Parliament and back to Buckingham Palace, where he later dined with Queen Elizabeth II, senior royals and dignitaries in a lavish state banquet.

The queen hailed what she called Britain and China's "global partnership" before leading guests in a toast to Xi and his wife. Prince William's wife, Kate — wearing a red gown and a lotus flower tiara loaned by the queen — was sat prominently next to Xi, while William sat next to Peng.

Xi made a short speech to both houses of Parliament, an honor that has been given to visiting politicians including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Britain and China have a long and sometimes antagonistic history that includes the 19th-century Opium Wars and decades of Cold War tension. But Xi quoted Shakespeare — "What's past is prologue" — and urged the two nations to "join hands and move forward" toward peace and development.

Britain's Conservative-led government has been courting China, the world's second-largest economy, for years. When Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, paid a state visit to Britain in 2005, the countries announced $1.3 billion in trade deals. This time, Britain said the two nations would sign 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in business agreements.

Treasury chief George Osborne, a champion of closer ties, has said he wants China to be Britain's biggest trading partner after the United States by 2025.

In an interview before the visit, Cameron told China's CCTV television that this was a "golden age" of U.K.-China relations. He said Chinese investment was good for Britain and that China benefited from "having access to a country that is a leading member of the EU, and has so many other contacts and roles in the world."

Yet economic rivalries remain. Tata Steel announced 1,200 layoffs at its British plants Tuesday, just weeks after 2,200 jobs were lost at SSI's plant in northeast England. Tata said the layoffs were in response to "a shift in market conditions caused by a flood of cheap imports, particularly from China, a strong pound and high electricity costs."

In an emergency House of Commons debate on the layoffs, Labour Party business spokesman Kevin Brennan accused the government of being "content to allow Britain's entire steel-making capacity to disappear in the face of blatant Chinese dumping."

China also is set to build a new nuclear power plant in southwest England, and the two governments have signed deals giving Chinese money greater access to London's financial district.

The slew of deals has sparked accusations that Britain is pandering to China to secure investment. Opposition politicians are urging Cameron to raise China's human rights record in his several meetings with Xi this week.

Others caution against relying too heavily on a country whose astonishing recent economic growth is flagging. Data released Tuesday showed China eased to a six-year low of 6.9 percent growth in the third quarter after expanding 7 percent in each of the previous two quarters. Some economists, however, say this year's true rate of growth for China might be as low as 4 percent.

Andreas Fulda, a lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham, said the British government was being overly optimistic about the economic impact of Chinese trade. He said it appeared illogical for Britain to open up its economy to China without reciprocal measures to allow European businesses into the Chinese market.

"The Chinese market is not a level playing field," he said.

On Tuesday evening, Queen Elizabeth II was hosting a state banquet for Xi at Buckingham Palace, attended by senior politicians and royalty — but not by heir to the throne Prince Charles, a friend of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

The palace did not give a reason for Charles' absence. He held several engagements with Xi earlier in the day, including a private meeting over tea.

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Associated Press Writers Danica Kirka and Sylvia Hui in London and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

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