While on his visit to India for the second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping will be travelling in ‘Hongqi’ limousine.
Hongqi is the Chinese luxury car marque owned by the carmaker China First Auto Works (FAW) Group. The four-door sedan is 18-feet long and 6.5-feet wide. Weighing 3,152 kg, the car is 5-feet tall.
Hongqi, which costs almost ₹5 crore, is the most expensive car in China. It can zip from zero to 100kmph speed within just 8 seconds.
Hongqi – meaning “red flag”, a traditional symbol for the Communist Party – is a luxury car brand launched in 1958 by FAW. The oldest Chinese passenger car marque, it had long been the official vehicle for high-ranking government officials and visiting dignitaries in China.
From Mao to Xi
Mao Zedong used it during US President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in the 1970s. But starting in the 1990s, the brand fell out of favour as Chinese leaders switched to using imported vehicles.
Departing from a past practice of using a host country’s cars for state visits, Xi Jinping made the bulletproof Chinese-made Hongqi “Red Flag” limousine his choice vehicle. It travels with him during all foreign trips.
The move was seen as an attempt to promote the Chinese brand on the international stage, in line with Xi’s own 2012 directive to Communist Party cadres that they eschew foreign wheels in favour of Chinese vehicles, reports South China Morning Post.
Lu Peixin, former head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s protocol department, has said China usually wants host countries to provide bulletproof vehicles for its visiting Chinese dignitaries, if possible, the Legal Evening News reported.
Xi’s other cars
During Xi’s visits to the US in 2012, 2013 and 2015, he was driven around in the hosts’ Cadillacs. When in France in 2014, the Chinese president rode in a Citroen C6, a luxury “executive” sedan from the French carmaker.
During his 2015 trip to Britain, Xi even took Queen Elizabeth’s Gold State Coach for a ride. The Royal Family’s enclosed carriage, drawn by eight horses, has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV in 1821.
But in 2014, after a G20 summit in Australia, Xi ferried two Hongqi L5 cars to New Zealand before his state visit – the first and only time he did not use a local car.
Xi said in a 2012 speech to Communist Party cadres that China’s leaders should only use Chinese cars.