Prince William meets Chinese president Xi Jinping

Prince William paints the eye of a Shaun the Sheep at the British ambassador's Beijing residence. Picture: PA

Prince William paints the eye of a Shaun the Sheep at the British ambassador's Beijing residence. Picture: PA

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RELATIONS between the UK and China have taken a significant leap forward with a historic meeting between president Xi Jinping and the Duke of Cambridge.

Mr Xi is from the Communist Party leadership once derided by William’s father, the Prince of Wales, as “old waxworks”, but he shook hands warmly with the duke when the two men met in Beijing yesterday.

The Royal Family has shown great interest in, and support for, Chinese-UK relations.

Xi Jinping

They 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 go 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 Mr Xi, speaking through an interpreter, 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 went on: “I know this is your Royal Highness’s 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 for William’s second child, which is due next month, and “congratulated” him and his wife on the imminent birth. He concluded by saying: “I’m sure your Royal Highness’s 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.”

His words will go a long way towards healing Prince Charles’s uneasy relationship with the country. His dealings with the nation have been troubled in the past, particularly after he criticised the leaders in an extract leaked from his diary.

Charles 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. 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 Mr Xi 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.”

Later, William visiting Beijing’s famous Forbidden City.

When asked for his impressions of China, the duke said: “It’s very early days yet, but I have been for a walk around the Forbidden City. I have to say I was overawed by the size, the scale and the sheer detail of much of the architecture there.”

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