Xi prefers Made in China Hongqi to a helicopter

As matter of policy, Chinese leaders avoid travelling by choppers, say officials.

Updated - October 11, 2019 11:49 pm IST

Published - October 11, 2019 10:58 pm IST - Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s convoy in Chennai on Friday, October 11, 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s convoy in Chennai on Friday, October 11, 2019.

Visiting Chennai for his second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping opted to travel to tourist town Mamallapuram by road instead of a helicopter as Chinese leaders, as matter of policy, shun travel by choppers.

While Modi, who landed in Chennai earlier, flew to Mamallapuram by helicopter, Mr. Xi covered the 57-km journey to Mamallapuram from Chennai, where he is staying in a hotel, by road, travelling in a specially flown in Hongqi limousine.

The Hongqi is a luxury Chinese car used by leaders of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) from the time of its founder Mao Zedong. In Chinese, hongqi means the red flag.

After the dialogue with Mr. Modi, Mr. Xi, 66, and his entourage will go on a sightseeing tour, and then leave for Chennai at night.


The Chinese delegation will be back in Mamallapuram on Saturday for another round of talks with Mr. Modi. In the afternoon, the Chinese delegation will leave for Nepal.

Chinese leaders, almost as a rule, do not use helicopters, the foreign ministry officials in Beijing said.

“Chinese leaders travel by planes and cars and don’t use helicopters,” they said, when asked why the president chose a long car journey over a chopper ride during his India visit.

Even when attending multilateral meetings like G20, Mr. Xi shunned the use of helicopters, the officials said.

Mr. Xi, who is now the most powerful leader in China after Mao, heading the CPC, the military and the presidency with a prospect of staying in power for life after last year’s constitutional amendment removing the two term rule for presidency, had introduced the practice of using the Hongqi, similar to the U.S. President travelling in a specialised Cadillac vehicle named ‘The Beast’.

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