Elizabeth who? Chinese media hail King Xi Jinping
21 October 2015
Chinese newspaper stands were a blaze of red and gold today, as the country woke up to dozens of royal-themed front pages hailing not the Queen of England but China's new emperor.
A poster image of the jewel-studded diamond jubilee state coach adorned the front of the Communist party-run Beijing Youth Daily.
''British royalty welcomes Xi Jinping with its highest honours,'' its headline read.
Editors at the Beijing News preferred an image of Xi striding purposefully ahead of the Duke of Edinburgh through a corridor of Grenadier Guards.
''Xi Jinping and the Queen take the same carriage,'' its headline gasped.
And a BBC survey of Chinese social media showed that hardly anyone had even heard of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, or other UK leaders – they were far more familiar with characters on the popular TV serial Sherlock.
In the three years since Xi took power, scarcely has there been a more visual opportunity to glorify his rule than Tuesday's festivities in SW1.
Beijing's propaganda department relentlessly promotes the president as an almighty chieftain battling to put the Middle Kingdom back at the centre of the world. They call him Xi Dada, which means Uncle or Big Daddy Xi.
And within hours of his Buckingham Palace debut Xi Dada, as the President likes to be called, was everywhere – on front pages, websites and television screens – often with members of the royal family trailing in his wake or staring admiringly towards his unreadable smirk (See: UK pulls all stops to give Xi Jinping royal welcome).
Murong Xuecun, an author known for skewering China's political elites in his writing, said the visit had been a gift to Beijing's propagandists.
''They want to show that Xi is loved and admired not only by the Chinese people but also the British people and people all over the world,'' he said.
Murong said China had turned its back on the cult of personality after the godlike status afforded Mao Zedong had sparked the devastating Cultural Revolution. Now it was back.
''Since Xi came to power, the propaganda … has been more and more focused on him,'' Murong said. ''Chinese media is not real media, it's just part of the propaganda apparatus – and its goal is to push this cult of personality.''
Xi is a princeling, as the powerful offspring of China's revolutionary founders are known, but on Wednesday he became a king. The scale of his British triumph was chronicled in page after page of fawning, state-sanctioned newspaper coverage.
''The grand welcoming ceremony for Xi Jinping hosted by the British royal family has become the focus of British society,'' claimed the party-controlled Global Times tabloid.
A double-page spread in the Beijing Youth Daily marvelled over the gusto with which China's leader had been embraced and asked: ''How does Buckingham Palace plan a bespoke visit for a foreign dignitary?''
Another article explored the Communist party leader's previous encounters with monarchs from countries including Spain and Cambodia. ''How does Xi Jinping deal with royal families?'' the newspaper mused.
Xinhua, China's official news agency, told its readers Xi had even won over parliament by quoting Shakespeare during his pre-banquet speech on Tuesday. ''The MPs responded with warm applause,'' it said.
Murong said British politicians appeared unfazed about how their red carpet welcome might play back in China.
''I have one question for them,'' the writer said. ''What do they hope to achieve by standing alongside the dictator?''