KATHMANDU, March 2: Relations between the UK and China have taken a significant step forward with a historic meeting between President Xi Jinping and the Duke of Cambridge.
Xi, head of the Communist party leadership once derided by William’s father, the Prince of Wales, as “old waxworks”, shook hands warmly with the Duke when they met in Beijing.
The two men chatted in the imposing Great Hall of the People – home of the Chinese Congress – where the president praised the royal family’s past interest in his country and how they had contributed “positively” to co-operation between China and UK.
He also extended an open invitation to the Queen and her family to come to China, paving the way for a visit by the heir to the throne.
The friendly meeting even saw the two men discussing their mutual love of football. As they sat in a large marble-clad room, speaking through an interpreter, president Xi told William: “The British royal family holds great influence not just in the UK but across the world.
“Over the years the royal family has shown great interest in, and support for, Chinese/UK relations. And members of the royal family have done a lot and contributed positively to (the) changes and co-operation between our two countries in areas ranging from trade to environment protection … and cultural exchanges.”
The Chinese leader, who is married to a famous Chinese folk singer, added: “I know this is your royal highness’ first visit to China. In China we have two sayings; first, hearing about something is not as good as seeing it.
“And the second saying is hearing about something 100 times is not the same as seeing it once. So I very much welcome your royal highness and other members of the royal family to make a visit to China and see more parts of China.”
The president passed on his good wishes about William’s second child expected next month and “congratulated” the duke and duchess on the imminent birth. He concluded by saying: “I’m sure your royal highness’ visit to China will be a productive visit and a visit of building friendships, (it will) surely go a long way to developing mutual understanding and friendly ties between China and British people and I would like to wish your visit a great success.”
The president’s words will go a long way to healing Charles’ uneasy relationship with the country. The heir to the throne’s dealings with the nation have been troubled in the past, particularly after he criticised the leaders in an extract leaked from his diary.
The prince is also a very public supporter of the Dalai Lami, seen by Chinese authorities as a threat to their control of Tibet, an autonomous region of China.
In response, William thanked the president “enormously” for inviting him to the Great Hall of the People and said: “It’s been a long interest of mine, for many years, to come and visit China.”
He had brought with him a manu regia – an official invitation from the Queen to the president to make a state visit to the UK in the autumn – and he handed over the invite to the Chinese leader.
He told the president he was going to have an informative few days adding: “I look forward to, as you say, strengthening UK/China relations and building things for the future.”
William, who is an Aston Villa fan, said: “I also gather you’re quite a football fan. I’m looking forward to learning about China’s football.”