BEIJING (AP) — With British Prime Minister David Cameron in the country on an official visit, a Chinese state-run newspaper on Tuesday labeled Britain a fallen great power worthy now only as a destination for tourists and students.
In an editorial, the Global Times also criticized Cameron for comments backing expanded democracy in former British colony Hong Kong, and said Britain is colluding with France and Germany to provoke China over the Dalai Lama. Cameron’s visit was originally scheduled for last year, but was postponed by China after he met with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who is reviled by Beijing.
“We’ve discovered that Britain is easily replaceable in China’s European foreign policy,” said the editorial in the newspaper’s Chinese edition. “Moreover, Britain is no longer any kind of ‘big country,’ but merely a country of old Europe suitable for tourism and overseas study, with a few decent football teams.”
China would respond in kind to all perceived diplomatic slights, the editorial said, adding that “in conclusion, we wish Prime Minister Cameron and his delegation a pleasant visit to China.”
The editorial’s sneering tone was typical of the strain of belligerent nationalism identified with the newspaper, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily. A similar editorial in the newspaper’s English edition called Britain “just an old European country apt for travel and study.”
Following meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping, Cameron flew to Shanghai on Monday night for further meetings and to speak at a university. His trip is to conclude Wednesday in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
During his time in Beijing, Cameron oversaw the signing of agreements in areas including space exploration and football training, and voiced support for a deal to free up trade between China and the European Union, China’s largest trading partner. Such a deal could be worth up to 1.8 billion British pounds ($2.95 billion) a year to the British economy, the U.K. government says.
Cameron is leading Britain’s largest trade mission to China, with more than 100 leaders from business, education and cultural fields, along with six government ministers.