Chinese premier Wen Jiabao will began his three-day trip to Britain by visiting Stratford-upon-Avon and the MG car plant in Longbridge today.
Mr Wen flew into Birmingham Airport last night for a visit intended to boost commercial, economic and political links between the countries.
He will travel to London for talks tomorrow with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street and a UK-China summit at which a number of business deals are expected to be signed.
His visit to Europe, which also takes in Germany and Hungary, comes just days after the release from custody of dissident artist Ai Weiwei, whose 81-day detention was the subject of loud protests in the West from governments, human rights groups and fellow artists.
It is thought that pressure ahead of the visit may have helped secure Ai's release, which removes a potentially awkward exchange from Mr Cameron's meeting with the Chinese premier.
Mr Wen's trip comes as a cash-rich China seeks to step up its investment in Europe and win contracts for infrastructure projects such as a high-speed rail link between London and the North.
Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming said earlier this week that China was looking for "flagship projects" and has "the knowledge, expertise and experience" to assist with the rail link.
Mr Wen's visit to Longbridge comes shortly after the resumption of volume car production at the historic plant, now owned by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation - one of the world's largest car makers.
He will attend the launch of the MG6 Magnette, one of a series of vehicles designed by British teams, with the majority of the car then made in China and shipped back to Birmingham for final assembly.
Reputedly a fan of William Shakespeare, he will also visit the playwright's home-town Stratford and watch a short performance of his work.
Protest group Free Tibet has said it will hold demonstrations outside Mr Wen's London hotel today and at Downing Street and the Royal Society - where he is due to give a speech - tomorrow.Reuse content