The Global Times denounced reports in the UK press that China had demanded an audience with the Queen as a condition of Mr Li’s visit. The claims were a sign of British prejudice against the emerging economic giant, said the newspaper, widely seen as a mouthpiece of the Beijing government.
The paper also accused the British media of “hyping” concerns over China’s human rights record and said that bilateral relations should be guided by “realistic recognition of the two countries’ power”, with the UK no longer placed in the same rank as China.
“Perhaps Chinese people should forgive Britain’s confusing sentiment,” said the Global Times editorial. “A rising country should understand the embarrassment of an old declining empire and at times the eccentric acts it takes to hide such embarrassment.
“Diplomacy has to be based on realistic recognition of the two countries’ power. No matter for China or the UK, it will be tiring if they try to distort this reality.”
The Global Times said it was “completely normal and proper” for the Chinese Premier to meet the Queen, and said that it was London, not Beijing, which “conceives they could utilise different options to express its opinions”.
It added: “British public opinion remains prejudiced against China and highly expects to embrace an opportunity to prove that it is superior compared with the emerging nation. Nevertheless, engaging in economic co-operation with Beijing is in its practical interests.
“Whenever Chinese and British leaders meet with each other, the British media habitually hypes China’s human rights and calls on the British Government not to sell its soul in exchange for Beijing’s trade pacts.
“Britain’s national strength cannot be placed in the same rank as China now, a truth difficult to accept for some Britons who want to stress their nobility. If they refuse to recognise this fact and find fault with China on purpose, even at the cost of bilateral relations, they will not find any mental comfort.”
Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman sought to shrug off the significance of the article, telling a Westminster media briefing: “I read in The Times of London Premier Li’s article when he said this was a great nation. That is the Prime Minister of China’s view.”