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Warm Wills melts China's 'waxworks'

Relations between the UK and China have taken a significant leap forward with a historic meeting between President Xi Jinping and the Duke of Cambridge.

Mr Xi, from the Communist Party leadership once derided by William's father, the Prince of Wales, as "old waxworks", shook hands warmly with the Duke when they met in Beijing.

The two men chatted in the imposing Great Hall of the People - home of the Chinese Congress - where the president praised the Royal Family's past interest in his country and how they had contributed "positively" to co-operation between China and UK.

He also extended an open invitation to the Queen and her family to come to China, paving the way for a visit by the heir to the throne.

The friendly meeting even saw the two men discussing their mutual love of football. As they sat in a large marble-clad room, speaking through an interpreter, President Xi told William: "The British Royal Family holds great influence not just in the UK but across the world.

"Over the years the Royal Family has shown great interest in, and support for, Chinese/UK relations. And members of the Royal Family have done alot and contributed positively to (the) changes and co-operation between our two countries in areas ranging from trade to environment protection ... and cultural exchanges."

The Chinese leader, who is married to a famous Chinese folk singer, added: "I know this is your Royal Highness' first visit to China. In China we have two sayings; first, hearing about something is not as good as seeing it.

"And the second saying is hearing about something 100 times is not the same as seeing it once. So I very much welcome your Royal Highness and other members of the Royal Family to make (a) visit to China and see more parts of China."

The president passed on his good wishes about William's second child expected next month and "congratulated" the Duke and Duchess on the imminent birth. He concluded by saying: "I'm sure your Royal Highness' visit to China will be a productive visit and a visit of building friendships, (it will) surely go a long way to developing mutual understanding and friendly ties between China and British people and I would like to wish your visit a great success."

The president's words will go a long way to healing Charles' uneasy relationship with the country. The heir to the throne's dealings with the nation have been troubled in the past, particularly after he criticised the leaders in an extract leaked from his diary.

The Prince is also a very public supporter of the Dalai Lami, seen by Chinese authorities as a threat to their control of Tibet, an autonomous region of China.

In response, William thanked the president "enormously" for inviting him to the Great Hall of the People and said: "It's been a long interest of mine, for many years, to come and visit China."

He had brought with him a manu regia - an official invitation from the Queen to the president to make a state visit to the UK in the autumn - and he handed over the invite to the Chinese leader.

He told the president he was going to have an informative few days adding: "I look forward to, as you say, strengthening UK/China relations and building things for the future."

William, who is an Aston Villa fan, said: "I also gather you're quite a football fan. I'm looking forward to learning about China's football."

Later, after visiting Beijing's famous Forbidden City, William held talks with deputy president Li Yuanchao, who highlighted the significance of the visit - the first by a senior member of the Royal Family since the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's tour in 1986.

Mr Li, speaking through an interpreter, told William as they sat in another room in the Great Hall of the People that his trip was the "most important visit undertaken by a member of the British Royal family in recent years".

He made the Duke laugh when he asked for his impressions of China and William replied: "It's very early days yet, but I have been for a walk around the Forbidden City. I have to say I was over awed by the size, the scale and the sheer detail of much of the architecture there, it was phenomenal.

"I can now understand why so many UK nationals travel over here to come visiting."

He added; "As I said to the President you need almost an entire year to see all the interesting historical and cultural things that are in China."

Looking ahead, the Duke said: "I look forward to learning more about China and its culture and its heritage, particularly its history."

He added he was interested in "how best the UK can work with and partner China in the future".

William was joined at the meeting by China's vice president for culture, Ding Wei, and his UK counterpart, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid.

After the meeting Mr Javid and his opposite number signed a formal agreement marking the start of the Year of Cultural Exchange between the UK and China.

Later the Prince flew to Shanghai, where he launched 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, with the aim of creating opportunities for UK companies wanting to break into one of the world's fastest growing markets.

William told the invited guests: "This festival is a showcase and celebration of the creative strength of the British economy and the ingenuity of the British people.

"It is a platform not only for our famed and still thriving creative sectors, such as film, art and media. But it is also a platform for the creativity and inventiveness that British firms apply in a wide variety of sectors, like healthcare and education.

"The festival is a chance to show off the ability of British business to reinvent itself for new times and to rethink its relevance in new and changing markets.

"I am sure it goes without saying that the businesses and entrepreneurs represented at this festival are a source of significant pride for the United Kingdom.

"Your work is responsible for millions of jobs and some of our biggest international success stories. But it is not just the creative strength on display here that makes this Great Festival worthy of its name. It is also the openness and warmth of our Chinese hosts that we will be celebrating over the next few days."

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