The Duke of Cambridge arrived in China yesterday for a high-profile trip that will see him highlight the illegal wildlife trade, visit some of the nation’s most famous sites and meet a rescued elephant.
William’s commercial flight landed in Beijing after a visit to Japan, where he heard the harrowing stories of survivors of the 2011 tsunami.
He toured a coastal area where thousands were killed and tens of thousands made homeless when the huge wave struck after being triggered by an earthquake.
The Duke’s four-day trip to China will put a spotlight on his father, the Prince of Wales’s, uneasy relationship with the country and raise questions about why he has yet to make an official visit to the republic.
The tour is the highest profile visit by a member of the Royal Family since the Queen’s 1986 state visit and will be viewed as an attempt to improve diplomatic relations with the country.
Charles’s dealings with China have been troubled in the past, particularly after he described its leaders as “appalling old waxworks’’ in a leaked diary.
William was greeted at Beijing’s airport by Britain’s ambassador to China, Barbara Woodward, and Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK. The trio met in private but were pictured walking through an airport terminal before the second-in-line to the throne was chauffeur-driven into Beijing.
Highlights of the trip will see William – who has campaigned strongly to end the illegal trade in ivory and other endangered animal products – travel on Wednesday to Yunnan province, where 250 wild Asian elephants still roam free.
He will give a speech at a regional wildlife and conservation conference after seeing rescued elephants and learning how local communities live alongside the large animals.
A long-standing advocate of animal conservation, the prince launched his own charity, United for Wildlife, last year and has given his support to bodies including Elephant Family and Tusk Trust.
In December last year, he used a visit to the US to raise his concerns about the illegal trade in wildlife parts with President Barack Obama and the World Bank. In a speech, the prince said: “In my view, one of the most insidious forms of corruption and criminality in the world today is the illegal wildlife trade.”
He also attacked poachers who “loot our planet to feed mankind’s ignorant craving for exotic pets, trinkets, cures and ornaments derived from the world’s vanishing, irreplaceable species”.
Today, the Duke is to tour Beijing’s famous Forbidden City before flying to Shanghai, where he will launch the three-day Great Festival of Creativity at the city’s Long Museum.
It will promote British commercial creativity and innovation to a high-profile business audience from the UK, China and beyond, to create opportunities for UK companies to break into one of the world’s fastest growing markets.
William will also attend an event before the premiere of the Paddington movie in Shanghai.