Chinese mob Boris on trade mission
Chinese students are attracted to London because of its weather, its French restaurants, and its "beautiful communist bicycles", Boris Johnson joked as he kicked off a visit to China.
Fresh from a 9-hour overnight flight, the London Mayor began the six-day trade mission being mobbed by crowds in Beijing's trendy 798 art district before a speech where he launched the first official Chinese language website promoting London.
At the lively pop-up event in a former factory, now converted to gallery space, Mr Johnson joked about the "communist" Barclays Cycle Hire scheme and claimed London's "polychromatic" diverse nature meant foreign students picked studying in the capital over going to the United States, where they only meet Americans.
Mr Johnson said: "Why is it that we are so lucky, so blessed in London, to have so many Chinese students?
"Is it because of the weather? You're laughing. Is it because we have so many wonderful French restaurants in London? Is it because we have so many beautiful communist bicycles on the streets of London?
"I'll tell you what I think it is. It's because we have more universities in London than any other city on Earth - 42 universities in London.
"And I'm delighted to see the incredible range of subjects that are being offered by our universities here today."
Mr Johnson could not escape the crowds and camera-phones as he arrived at the event and drew laughs throughout his speech.
He went on: "When they (prospective students) look at London they see the most incredibly diverse, cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, polychromatic, polymorphous city anywhere in the world, with 300 languages in London.
"As the daughter of a great Chinese businessman explained it to me - she said the reason she decided to come and study in London and not in America, I have no shame in doing a bit of comparative advertising here, she studied in London and not in America, she said, because when you go to America you meet Americans, when you come to London you meet the world."
Later, Mr Johnson joked about he and George Osborne singing songs after banquets - an apparent reference to their days as members of the infamous Oxford University Bullingdon Club.
The Mayor of London quipped about their time in the exclusive dining club at a meeting with Beijing mayor Wang Anshun, although Mr Osborne was a member at a different time.
The Chancellor is also visiting China this week as part of a trade mission with other Government ministers. The pair are due to give a joint speech at Peking University tomorrow.
At the mayor's headquarters, Mr Johnson asked Mr Wang: "Obviously I'm delighted to hear that you were at Oxford. Did you enjoy your time at Oxford?
Mr Wang said: "It was a very pleasant time for me and I learned a lot... Every night we would have a banquet session and at the end we would all sing songs. It was a very happy time.
Mr Johnson replied: "We used to do that. The Chancellor and I used to do that too."
At the meeting, Mr Wang and Mr Johnson signed a memorandum of understanding on science and technology.