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Prince William kicks off China tour with warm welcome from president

March 2, 2015
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Prince William has touched down in China to kick off his three-day tour, following his visit to Japan last week. Having previously met Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, it was time for China's state counterparts to welcome the British Prince.

William was introduced to President Xi Jinping – and as it was the Duke of Cambridge's first trip to China, and the first time a senior royal has made the visit in nearly 30 years – the two men had a lot to talk about.

While the heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge, née Kate Middleton, had not joined her husband on the trip, President Xi started the meeting by congratulating William on the impending birth of his second baby.

prince william1 © Photo: Getty Images
Prince William was congratulated by President Xi Jinping about the impending birth of his second baby

The pair also discussed their mutual love of football, with Aston Villa fan William saying: "I'm looking forward to learning about China's football."

The Prince extended an invitation from his grandmother the Queen, for the president to go on a state visit to the UK later this year. "It's been a long interest of mine, for many years, to come and visit China," said William, as he handed President Xi the envelope.

The last time a senior member of the royal family visited mainland China was in 1986, when the Queen travelled with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. William's father and first-in-line to the throne Prince Charles has never visited.

prince william2 © Photo: Getty Images
Prince William passed on an invite from the Queen for the president to visit the UK

Speaking through an interpreter, President Xi praised the royal family for their global influence and for supporting Chinese/UK relations. He also returned the invitation, saying: "I know this is your royal highness' first visit to China. In China we have a saying that 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."

prince william3 © Photo: Getty Images
The Duke of Cambridge enjoyed a private tour of the Forbidden City

William, 32, was given a special tour of the iconic Forbidden City – the grand imperial Chinese palace – which is usually closed on Mondays. When asked by reporters how his Mandarin was coming along, the Prince admitted that "ni hao", translated as "hello", was "about as far as I've got."

William also stopped by the British ambassador's official residence, where he put the finishing touches to a larger-than-life statue of TV cartoon character Shaun the Sheep.

prince william4 © Photo: Getty Images
Prince William was tasked with putting the finishing touches to Shaun the Sheep

The Union Jack-painted sculpture was one of the five on display to promote the Year of Cultural Exchange – a joint partnership supported by Chinese and UK governments to showcase each country's creative talent.

"It's not particularly stylish but it will pass," quipped William as he painted the sheep's eyes, before joking, "You know I can't do two things at once," when asked by photographers to pose.

Future engagements on the Duke's trip include a stop in Shanghai, where he will open the GREAT Festival of Creativity at the Long Museum.

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