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PM's speech risks wrath of Chinese

David Cameron is to risk the wrath of his hosts in China by setting out a forthright case for parliamentary democracy, a free press and the rule of law while suggesting Beijing should go down the route of "greater political opening".

The Prime Minister's comments, in a keynote speech to Beijing students at the end of his two-day visit, amount to the toughest argument for democracy made by a British leader on Chinese soil in recent times.

Mr Cameron has said he will not "lecture and hector" China over political freedoms and human rights, and aides said his speech is intended in a spirit of frank dialogue rather than criticism.

The PM himself will acknowledge that British society is "not perfect" and insist that he is not trying to place the UK in a position of "moral superiority" over China.

But he will say that institutions like Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons and an official Opposition, with a constitutional duty to hold the new Government publicly to account, promote better governance by forcing leaders to listen to criticism and adapt their policies in response.

The constraints of a judiciary able to strike down unlawful official actions "make our Government better and our country stronger", he will say.

And a free media allows those who hold different views from the Government to take part in public debate. "We believe that the better informed the British public is about the issues affecting our society... the easier it is, ultimately, for the British Government to come to sensible decisions and to develop robust policies that command the confidence of our people, " he will say.

Speaking to students at Beida University, Mr Cameron is expected to acknowledge that leading a country of 1.3 billion people raises difficulties of a different order from those of a nation of 60 million.

He will add: "I make these observations not because I believe that we have some moral superiority. "Our own society is not perfect. There is still injustice which we must work hard to tackle. We are far from immune from poverty and the ills that afflict every nation on Earth."

But he will say: "In arguing for a strong relationship between our countries, I want a relationship in which we can be open with each other... The rise in economic freedom in China in recent years has been hugely beneficial to China and to the world. I hope that in time this will lead to a greater political opening... because I am convinced that the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together."

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