Prince Harry and William: Expert discusses Princess Diana statue
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When former Prime Minister Theresa May claimed the keys to Downing Street in 2016, the level of enthusiasm between London and Beijing went down considerably. Many ambitious projects like an RMB bond issuance and a London-Shanghai stock got sidelined. Things went from bad to worse with Prime Minister Boris Johnson storming to power, as Brexit meant that the UK went closer to Washington and former US President Donald Trump started pushing allies to reject Huawei.
Yesterday, tensions escalated further as the UK joined other countries in issuing sanctions on Chinese officials over the nation’s abuse of Uighur Muslims.
The current Sino-British relations are in stark contrast to the warm ties former Prime Minister David Cameron tried to forge during his premiership.
The former Tory leader was not the only one who helped reach what was then described as the “golden era” of relations between Beijing and London, though.
Prince William repaired years of diplomatic damage caused by his father and other members of the Royal Family when he visited China and met President Xi Jinping in 2015.
The Duke of Cambridge and President Xi looked like old friends as they chatted about football and wildlife protection.
William, who warmly shook the President’s hand at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, also handed Xi an invitation from the Queen for a state visit to Britain.
The Chinese President told William: “The Royal Family has great influence not just in Britain but across the world.
“Over many years the Royal Family has shown interest in and support for the China-Britain relationship and members of the Royal Family have done a lot and positively contributed to exchanges and cooperation between our two countries.”
William replied: “It’s been a long interest of mine for many years to visit China.”
The Duke’s trip to Beijing was the first royal visit since the Queen and Prince Philip toured the country in 1986.
Prince Charles had refused to visit the People’s Republic over its human rights record and treatment of Tibet.
Moreover, in 1999, he was accused of boycotting a Chinese state visit to the UK by failing to attend the return banquet held for the then-president Jiang Zemin, who two years earlier attended the Hong Kong ceremony.
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Charles’s former aide Mark Bolland later revealed it was “a deliberate snub'”, adding: “He did not approve of the Chinese regime, and is a great supporter of the Dalai Lama, whom he views as being oppressed by the Chinese.”
However, his son’s view was that despite the UK’s difficult relationship with China, “we’ve got to engage”.
William’s visit turned out to be a diplomatic success.
Not afraid to speak his mind, the Duke openly condemned the illegal wildlife trade during their high-profile meeting.
Charlie Mayhew, chief executive of the conservation charity Tusk, told The Sunday Times: “It was very political, raising the illegal wildlife trade in China.
“I’m sure the diplomats were having all sorts of nightmares in advance.
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“But he was gathering greater confidence that he had the ability to be a mouthpiece for the issue.”
Mr Mayhew also revealed that while William was visiting Japan before China, he still hadn’t secured a meeting with President Xi.
He added: “But when the Chinese saw all the high-level meetings he was having in Japan, they changed their minds and Xi made time for him.”
Later that year, as the Chinese President embarked a UK state visit, William appeared on Chinese television condemning the ivory trade.
Two years later China banned it.
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