China Ink

Royal appointment

How did the media respond to the Duke of Cambridge’s four-day trip to China?

Britain's Prince William faces the media during a visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing

A successful visit?

The state press covered William’s meeting with Xi Jinping, and said that he had passed on a personal invitation to the Chinese president to visit his grandmother Queen Elizabeth in London.

Xinhua reported that it was a “rare and important field trip” for the future British king, and an opportunity for him to “experience in person the great Asian civilisation”. The Global Times went further, speculating that the visit would help to reinvigorate the UK’s economy, and improve the odds of David Cameron’s re-election as prime minister in May.

“It may help soothe the pressures imposed by protests from pan-democratic groups in Hong Kong, where the royal family is still popular,” the newspaper claimed (rather optimistically) too.

William was the first British royal to visit the Chinese mainland in 29 years, since the Queen’s tour of the country in 1986, and he did his job more diplomatically than his dad and grandpa, the British press remarked. His father, Prince Charles, caused a stir with unguarded remarks that the Chinese leaders were “appalling old waxworks” during the Hong Kong handover in 1997. His grandfather Prince Philip behaved even worse in 1986, concurred most UK newspapers, when he told British students in Beijing that they risked turning “slitty-eyed” if they stayed in China too long. (WiC also recalls the moment when Deng Xiaoping spat into a spittoon in front of Her Majesty. The Queen didn’t move a muscle but Prince Philip couldn’t help but let out a guffaw.)

What were the focal points?

The Chinese newspapers picked up on William’s chat about football with Xi. “I gather you’re quite a football fan,” he told his host. Xi then told William that he wanted to learn from traditionally strong footballing nations, such as England.

Netizens seemed more interested in whether William could help in getting speedier access to wildly popular British TV shows like Sherlock and Downton Abbey. “Can you help expedite the next series of Sherlock please?” was a typical request. But some Chinese were less polite, especially about William’s looks. “His head is bald! He looks like an uncle in his fifties!” crowed one contributor. “Someone said William is coming to China to stock up on Zhangguang 101,” joshed another, referring to a local hair growth tonic, while others complained that he was “not as good-looking as the prince in the fairy tales”. Another lamented: “William was super handsome when he was 20.”

He met business leaders like Alibaba’s Jack Ma and attended the China premiere of the British movie Paddington. William did become a bit more outspoken when he called for a crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade, describing it “a vicious form of criminality” that “erodes the rule of law, fuels conflict and may even fund terrorism”.

China imposed a one-year ban imports of ivory carvings last week, but there is no ban on the trade within the country.

Meanwhile there was embarrassment in the royal entourage when Sky News reported that some of the 250 elephants living at the sanctuary that William visited near the town of Xishuangbanna in Yunnan province also perform for tourists. The broadcaster noted that while he was photographed with one of the elephants, visitors nearby were being entertained by another group of animals that kicked footballs, balanced on stools and donned giant glasses.

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