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Classical Chinese look – with a few modern comforts – for G20 leaders

Hangzhou, the host city of the G20 summit, has also been given responsibility for making visible the full palette of Chinese colours at the grand diplomatic event, in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s frequent calls for a revival of traditional Chinese culture and lifestyle.

Luckily, the world leaders attending the first day of meetings yesterday did not need to place their presidential bottoms directly on hard, cold and expensive rosewood.

At least on the classic Ming Dynasty style tai-shi chairs – “the seats for imperial grand masters” – the hosts had kindly prepared pleasant soft grey cushions.

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The Hangzhou Olympic and International Expo Centre, the summit’s splendid venue, provides an eyeful of symbolic Chinese cultural elements, which were further emphasised by British Prime Minister Theresa May’s and South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s bright red outfits.

In the centre’s grand meeting hall, where chairs and desks are arranged into a round table, paper scrolls unfold in front of each leader’s seat, with green jade paperweights at either end.

On each table, a pottery plate containing a pen is in the top right corner, near a porcelain cup that has a lid with a gold-plated knob. And the square-shaped “seal”, almost as large as an imperial seal on the top left corner, is in fact the switch for the microphone.

Each desk comes close to recreating that of a 17th century imperial minister, although the guests were served with still and sparkling water from glass bottles and enjoyed desserts including cupcakes, chocolates and Western-style biscuits.

Even Xi himself reportedly has some non-Chinese tastes – Russian President Vladimir Putin brought him a tub of ice cream from Moscow on Sunday.

“Every time I go to Russia, I ask them to buy me Russian ice cream. And later, we eat it at home,” Agence France-Presse quoted Xi as saying, citing a comment made by the Russian delegation.

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To ensure that the city exudes the Chinese theme from every pore, the summit organisers have filled every corner of the meeting venues, transport stations, hotels and even stuffed gift bags for participants with the city’s renowned products, including silks, folding fans, ink paintings and calligraphy.

Later, on Sunday evening, the leaders were invited to a grand outdoor performance of music and dance on the West Lake, directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou.

Zhang, who also directed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, said the show would be a “collision and fusion of Chinese elements and world culture”.