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Chinese President Xi Jinping visits UK to seal nuclear deal

The Chinese President's trip to the UK is intended to focus on plans to build two nuclear reactors in England. His country's human rights record is likely to be overlooked - even by the Royal Family.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive in London later on Monday for a

four-day trip

. He praised Britain's initiative in strengthening its trade relations with China as he prepared for his first state visit to the United Kingdom.

His stay in London is expected to cement ties between Britain and China, focusing on a number of business deals. Xi said that China looked forward to engaging with the UK "in a wider range, at a higher level and in greater depth."

"The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China. This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain's own long-term interest," he said.

Xi's visit to Britain, during which he and his wife Peng Liyuan will stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II, will also include meetings with various members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, who has been a vocal supporter of the

Dalai Lama

for years.

Xi's visit marks the first state visit by a Chinese president to the UK since 2005.

Slowing growth

The trip comes at a time of global anxiety about China's slowing growth, which Xi himself acknowledged. Xi said that China itself is worried about the slowing of the broader global economy, while he showed confidence in China's eventual recovery.

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama

Xi Jinping's visit to the United States in September was overshadowed by China's recent cyber attacks on US government departments

"We do have concerns about the Chinese economy, and we are working hard to address them. We also worry about the sluggish world economy, which affects all countries, especially developing ones," he said.

Xi added that the slowing was normal as a part of structural adjustments, as the government sought to wean it off an over-reliance on investment in infrastructure and housing.

Britain was the first Western state to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) earlier this year, leading to many other countries to follow suit. Britain said that joining the AIIB would "create an unrivalled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together".

Cameron: a "golden time" in bilateral relations

Xi's visit comes amid debate in Britain over what is the best way to engage with a Communist-ruled China which has grown economically and diplomatically but maintained stances that are often seen as at odds with those widely held in the West. These include human rights issues and the expansion of Chinese influence in the

South China Sea

. Tensions were on display when

Xi visited the United States

last month, with the issue of cyber theft causing particular friction.

George Osborne Exchequer in China

UK Exchequer George Osbourne travelled to China earlier this year to start cementing bilateral ties

Britain's finance minister George Osborne visited China last month, where he tried to attract further Chinese investment into Britain. Chinese state media praised Osborne for having the "etiquette" not to press human rights issues. However, Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected opposition leader from the Labour party, said he intended to bring up the issue of human rights during Xi's visit. Xi meanwhile called on Britain and other countries to avoid what "bias against Chinese companies."

But European businesses have previously complained about what they saw as an increasingly restrictive environment for doing business, with new rules on technology sales limiting firms to choose between forgoing the market and handing potentially sensitive data to Chinese authorities.

Nuclear deal and London trade

One particular deal expected to be finalized during Xi's visit is a plan for two state-owned Chinese utilities to invest in a 16 billion UK pound ($25 billion) nuclear power project built by French utility EdF at Hinkley Point in the southwest of England. China had previously announced its ambitions to sell its own nuclear technology overseas, including in Western nations.

"Hinkley Point is the product of tripartite cooperation among China, the UK and France. I hope that the companies of the three countries will fully leverage their respective strengths to ensure the successful launch of this project and deliver benefits to the British people," Xi said.

Nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point

The nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in southwest England is at the heart of upcoming talks between Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping

EdF-chief Jean-Bernard Levy said that his company was in final negotiations with its Chinese partners.

"If all goes well, we will be able to announce major news in coming days; the first nuclear new-build in Europe since the Fukushima accident," Levy said on television station iTELE.

Xi underscored China's readiness to strengthen financial cooperation with London, in particular for trading the Yuan and creating offshore Yuan businesses. London is set to be the first location outside China and Hong Kong to host the issuance of Chinese central bank and finance ministry debt.

"When conditions are in place, China is ready to consider strengthening the connectivity of the financial markets of the two countries," Xi said.

ss/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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