This morning was a very exciting one, as I met the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping!
Imperial College hosted the President and his wife, First Lady Madame Peng Liyuan, alongside the Duke of York Prince Andrew, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord O’Neill, and several senior Chinese ministers as part of President Xi’s state visit to the UK.
Imperial is the UK’s number one research collaborator with China and during the visit Alice Gast (President of Imperial), announced new UK-China education and research collaborations; and explained how we are already working together on cutting-edge research in areas of science and engineering, which address some of the world’s greatest challenges.
So, what was my involvement?! I had the honour of welcoming and presenting President Xi and his wife with bouquets of flowers, alongside the Graduate Student’s Union president, Liucheng.
It was a slightly surreal experience, being escorted by security to the main entrance of Imperial, to find hundreds of people on the other side of Exhibition Road, waiting in the pouring rain, waving flags with excitement to meet President Xi. The crowd must have been at least 5 rows deep stretching down the road; and there I was standing there in the entrance with my bouquet of flowers trying not to get too excited.
First arrivals were George Osbourne and Prince Andrew, who were greeted by Alice, James Stirling (Provost) and other senior staff of College. Shortly after, everyone lined up ready to welcome President Xi to Imperial. When he arrived there was a huge roar from the crowd as he made his way into the main hall, was greeted by the relevant distinguished hosts before Liucheng and I stepped forward to offer our gifts of flowers, followed by a brief exchange between us and them.
Following the welcome, Alice gave a warm and uplifting speech and then took the entourage on a short tour of several laboratories on campus. The labs visited are some of the world’s most advanced, specialising in big data research and medical robotics.
Upon return, there was an opportunity for a selection of talented and charismatic undergraduate and postgraduate students from a variety of departments, to meet the distinguished guests. They were all lined up, with myself on the end, as the guests made their way along greeting the 10 of us and briefly asking questions about life at Imperial.
Alice introduced me formally to President Xi also stating that we are the two females running the College and Union, with me adding “for the first time in history” which he seemed pleased about. I then formally met Madame Peng, Prince Andrew and George Osbourne who asked me “When will I see you in Parliament?!”
It was a great experience to meet this world leader, and to also feel extremely proud showing off the wonderful students at Imperial.
It was especially nice to see Madame Peng by the President’s side as well, as she is one to watch in her own right as the appointed Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls’ and Women’s Education by the UN. You can read more about her by clicking here.
Below, you can also read more about the visit and Alice’s speech: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_20-10-2015-20-41-20