How Theresa May’s trip to China compares with the lavish ‘state visit plus’ Donald Trump got when he came

Theresa May with some Chinese soldiers, and Trump with a lot.

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Theresa May with some Chinese soldiers, and Trump with a lot.
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Reuters/Business Insider

Theresa May is currently on her first state visit to China, where she hopes to strengthen the UK and China’s “golden era” of trade relations.

So far she’s met students in Wuhan, a university town in central China, had tea with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and taken part in a traditional Chinese New Year celebration in Beijing.

But this is nothing compared to Donald Trump’s visit to China – dubbed a “state visit-plus” – where he was treated to the most spectacular display of diplomacy in the country’s history.

See for yourself in the photos below.


Theresa May arrived in China on Wednesday, accompanied by her husband Philip, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and 50 British businesspeople.

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May with her delegation upon arrival to Wuhan, China.
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Dan Kitwood/Getty

Trump visited in November with his wife Melania, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Jared Kushner, and 29 US CEOs.

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Trump and his delegation to China.
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Thomas Peter/Pool/Getty Images)

Source: CNBC


First stop: Wuhan, a university town in central China. Here she and her husband Philip leave their plane on a red carpet.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

The Trumps also descended Air Force One on a grander red carpet with gold nosings when they arrived in Beijing last November.

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Lintao Zhang/Pool/Reuters

May was welcomed by a few black-clad soldiers…

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William James/Reuters

… while Trump was greeted by rows of soldiers in green, blue, and white.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Here’s how Trump’s arrival ceremony looked from afar.

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Thomas Peter/Pool/Getty

A little boy gave May flowers when she landed. Many people in China call her “Auntie May,” as if she were a part of their families. May said she was “honoured by that.”

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

Source: The Guardian


Trump was also greeted by some children waving Chinese and American flags.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Foreign leaders don’t usually stop by Wuhan when they visit China, but May wanted to secure £550 million ($783 million) worth of education-related deals with China — and a visit to a university city seemed appropriate. Here she is with students at Wuhan University.

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China Daily via Reuters

Source: South China Morning Post


Trump didn’t go to Wuhan, but toured a science lab in Beijing with Chinese President Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan.

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Andy Wong/Pool/Reuters

In Wuhan, the Mays were treated to a cultural performance at the city’s Yellow Crane Tower.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

It was a very colourful affair.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

However, it was a much more casual performance than the one to which Donald Trump was treated — which took place in an 18th century theatre in Beijing’s Forbidden Palace.

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US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and their spouses Melania Trump and Peng Liyuan at an opera performance at Beijing’s Forbidden City in November 2017.
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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with a performer at the Forbidden City in Beijing in November 2017.
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

May’s second stop was Beijing, where she was welcomed by honour guards at the Great Hall of the People. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang — who is one rank below President Xi — accompanied her as she inspected the troops.

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Jason Lee/Reuters

When Trump visited, he was treated to a much larger military display by Tiananmen Square, and was accompanied by President Xi himself.

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Damir Sagolj/Reuters

It was a very grand procession.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

May, however, got to take part in a fun Chinese New Year ritual — dotting the eye of the lion used in traditional ceremonies. This symbolises “waking up” the lion before it starts its dance.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

The PM and her husband, Philip, also got to visit the Forbidden City in Beijing. The ancient imperial palace is usually teeming with tourists, but the government cleared it out for the Mays.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

But they didn’t get a personal tour from Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, which Trump did.


After visiting the palace, May and her delegation held talks with Xi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a small hotel and complex near the Forbidden Palace.

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Wu Hong/Pool/Reuters

They reportedly discussed topics including trade, climate change mitigation, North Korea, and Hong Kong, a former British colony now under Chinese rule.

Source: 10 Downing Street


It was a much smaller venue to the Great Hall of the People, where Trump and Xi held their bilateral talks.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

While the Prime Minister worked, her husband Philip toured the Great Wall of Beijing…


… Pretty much the same as Melania Trump did while her husband worked.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Peng Liyuan, Xi’s wife, accompanied Melania on some of her trips around town, though. Here they are at a performance at the Banchang Primary School in Beijing.

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Greg Baker/Pool/Reuters

After UK-China bilateral talks, Xi, May, and their spouses unwound at a guesthouse with their countries’ favourite drinks — tea.

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Dan Kitwood/Pool/Getty

They were served Lapsang Souchong tea, which Philip May reportedly said they also regularly drink back home at 10 Downing Street.

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Dan Kitwood/Pool/Getty

Source: The Guardian


The Mays were then given a private dinner at Diaoyutai Guest House, a Number 10 spokesperson told Business Insider.

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Dan Kitwood/Pool/Getty

The Trumps’ version of a private dinner was much more extravagant — they got to dine at the Forbidden City, which no foreign leader had ever done since modern China’s founding in 1949.

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Flickr/deepphoto

The Trumps were also treated to a massive state dinner at the Great Hall of the People, where US and Chinese delegates watched a video of Trump’s granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, performing a Chinese song.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

May’s delegation visited Shanghai on Friday, the last day of the trip. The Prime Minister and her husband were given a private tour of the Yu Yuan Temple Gardens.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

The Mays also spared some time to make Chinese New Year decorations with schoolchildren in the city.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty

Take a look at their handicraft in the photos below.


Melania Trump was presented with a similar sign when she visited a school in Beijing with Peng Liyuan last year. The sign says “fortune” in Chinese — many households around the country display it.

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Ng Han Guan/Pool/Reuters

May expects to bring home $12.8 billion (£9 billion) worth of trade deals after the trip.

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Wu Hong/Pool/Getty Images

Source: BBC, The New York Times


This is just a fraction of what Trump brought home from China — he signed $250 billion (£176 billion) in trade agreements during his visit.

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Donald Trump.
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Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Chinese government might have deliberately amped up Trump’s November visit, though. David Lampton, a Johns Hopkins-SAIS China professor, said at the time: “Trump is a president who loves to be flattered — and the Chinese know how to flatter.”

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Damir Sagolj/Reuters