5 things about Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Britain

British and Chinese flags fly on the Mall in central London on Oct 18, 2015.
British and Chinese flags fly on the Mall in central London on Oct 18, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

Britain is rolling out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping who is visiting on Monday (Oct 19), heralding a "golden era" in bilateral ties.

Amid the pomp and pageantry, Prime Minister David Cameron will be looking to Mr Xi to dole out billions of pounds in new investment during his four-day state visit, the first to Britain by a Chinese leader in a decade.

Here are five things to know about the visit and Sino-British ties:

1. 'Reddest red carpet' treatment

The British prime minister and the royal family will roll out what has been described as the "reddest red carpet" for the Chinese leader. Besides a 41-gun salute, Mr Xi's itinerary also includes welcome lunch and state banquet at Buckingham Palace - where he and First Lady Peng Liyuan will also stay - and visits to Mr Cameron's official residence at 10 Downing Street, his country retreat Chequers, and the Houses of Parliament.

On a lighter note, Mr Xi, who is a football fan, will visit Manchester City football club, accompanied by Mr Cameron.

2. 'A golden opportunity for bilateral ties'

Britain is pulling out all stops to become "China's best partner in the West and apparently it will go to any lengths to secure that moniker", says the South China Morning Post.

Britain is back in China's good graces after Mr Cameron's May 2012 meeting with the Dalai Lama plunged the two countries into a near two-year diplomatic freeze. China views the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne reflected Britain's more accommodative tone on a September trip to China when he signalled that Britain would refrain from criticism on human rights and not engage in "megaphone diplomacy". He also called on the two countries to "stick together" despite fears of a slowdown in China, the world's second biggest economy. "Let's stick together to grow our economies. Let's stick together to make Britain China's best partner in the West."

Ahead of Mr Xi's visit, Mr Osborne has hailed what he called the "golden decade" in ties with China, while Mr Cameron has described 2016 as a "golden year" in bilateral ties.

3. Multibillion-pound investment deals expected

Chinese officials have said the amount of deals Mr Xi will announce during the trip will be "huge". According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese President will announce multi-billion-pound investment deals, and other agreements will be sealed and understandings reached on a range of ventures.

While Britain is now China's second biggest European Union trading partner after Germany, it has the biggest trade imbalance of the five largest EU economies. That trade deficit reflects its relatively weak exports of goods and services compared with imports from China.

Britain is counting on Mr Xi making progress in his drive to transform China's economy from an export-driven model to a consumption-driven one to create new markets for British firms. 

4. Accord on 'most expensive atomic energy station'

Both countries are set to announce a deal that will give China a stake in Electricite de France SA's Hinkley Point project, Britain's first nuclear plant in three decades and the most expensive atomic energy station ever.

With construction costs estimated at £24.5 billion (S$52.4 billion) by the European Commission and bolstered by subsidies at twice the current wholesale power price, opponents have described Hinkley as "the most expensive object on earth".

The British side has been negotiating with two Chinese state-owned utilities - China General Nuclear Power and China National Nuclear - over the size of their stakes in Hinkley.

The deal could also lead to China designing and building a second nuclear plant in Essex as part of the Cameron government's effort for China to play a leading role in developing nuclear energy in the country.

5. Prince Charles to shun state banquet

Prince Charles will hold "one-to-one talks" with Mr Xi but will not attend the state banquet, to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. He will, however, attend the ceremonial welcome and lunch at Buckingham Palace.

The Prince of Wales infamously described the Communist Party leaders as "appalling old waxworks" after Hong Kong's 1997 handover. The Prince, who counts the Dalai Lama as a personal friend, also boycotted previous China state visits in 1999 and 2005.

SOURCES: BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, FINANCIAL TIMES, THE TELEGRAPH