Queen hails 'milestone' visit of China's president Xi Jinping at state banquet
The Queen has hailed the "milestone" visit of China's president Xi Jinping to Britain and declared Anglo-Chinese ties are being taken to "ambitious" new heights.
In her speech during a dazzling Buckingham Palace state banquet, held in honour of the visiting head of state, the Queen told her guest "we have much reason to celebrate the dynamic, growing economic relationship between our countries".
The white-tie dinner saw two memorable firsts, an attendance by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a major development in their role as members of the monarchy.
All eyes were on Kate who dazzled in her bespoke Jenny Packham gown - red in recognition of the Chinese - and lotus flower tiara, a favoured piece of jewellery loaned by the Queen.
The four-day state visit by China's leader has been lauded by David Cameron who has described it as an "important moment'' in the relations between the two nations.
The Queen told the president: "Your visit to the United Kingdom marks a milestone in this unprecedented year of co-operation and friendship between the United Kingdom and China, as we celebrate the ties between our two countries and prepare to take t hem to ambitious new heights."
She went on to highlight the efforts of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping whose vision of "one country two systems" had borne "remarkable fruit".
Speaking about Deng's achievements the Queen added: "Rapid economic growth and development has transformed the lives of people across China and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty: a huge and historic achievement with far reaching positive effects on people's lives."
Mr Xi's four-day trip is expected to set the seal on more than £30 billion of trade and investment deals.
But the Prime Minister is facing pressure to raise with the president concerns about China's human rights record, and the "dumping'' of cheap steel - which is blamed for the loss of thousands of British steel jobs in the last few days.
Critics have warned that Britain will "rue the day'' it forged deeper ties with China and accused the Government of acting like a ''panting puppy'' in its relations with the country.
But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond insisted the move was in the national interest.
Commons Speaker John Bercow appeared to obliquely criticise China twice on the day its president addressed both Houses of Parliament.
Intervening during a question in the Commons comparing the UK's relationships with China and India, ahead of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UK next month, Mr Bercow said: "And of course the Indian prime minister is the representative of a great democracy.''
Later when he introduced Mr Xi before his address to MPs and Peers, he said China should aspire to be seen as a "moral inspiration'' to the world as it takes its place as an international superpower - something that may be interpreted as a veiled reference to Beijing's poor human rights record.
The Queen, who wore a white tulle banquet dress embroidered with diamante sequins, went on to tell her guest: "Your visit to the United Kingdom marks a milestone in this unprecedented year of co-operation and friendship between the United Kingdom and China, as we celebrate the ties between our two countries and prepare to take them to ambitious new heights."
In his response to the Queen's address the president said: "China and Britain respectively represent the great Oriental and Western civilisations.
"Though far apart geographically, our two countries have long engaged in close interactions."
He went on to say: "As an old Chinese adage goes, Opportunity may knock just once; grab it before it slips away. In Britain, you also have a famous saying, A wise man turns chance into good fortune.
"As China-UK comprehensive strategic partnership enters the second decade this year, let us seize the opportunity, and work together to usher in an even brighter future for China-UK relationship."
Among the guests were Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.
Members of the royal family who attended included the Duke of York, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.