Prince William To Tackle China Wildlife Trade

Prince William has arrived in Beijing for the first visit to China of a senior British royal in three decades.

The Duke of Cambridge, travelling without his heavily pregnant wife, will spend three days in the country visiting Beijing, Shanghai and an elephant sanctuary in Yunnan Province.

The trip, which follows a four-day tour of Japan, is seen as the first significant test of the Prince's diplomatic skills. Trade will be one focus but he is also expected to tackle China's role in ending the illegal wildlife trade.

He will represent the Queen as well as the Government for some engagements, but for others he will be an ambassador for British business at a time when the UK is actively seeking to expand economic and cultural opportunities with China.

In Japan, The Duke of Cambridge spent the last day of his tour of Japan hearing more harrowing stories from the survivors of the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

The Duke toured the coastal town of Ishinomaki which was hit by an estimated 28 foot wave. 3,275 people died, with 430 people still unaccounted for. Approximately 22,000 residents lost their homes and 53,000 homes were damaged.

He also met Hiroyuki Takeuchi, a newspaper editor who produced handwritten newsletters when the disaster struck.

During his tour of China, the Prince will meet President Xi Jinping and tour the Beijing's iconic Forbidden City before flying to Shanghai.

William's China Visit: List Of Dos And Don'ts

He will officially open the Great Festival of Creativity in Shanghai, a British initiative which marks the start of what is billed as a "flagship year of cultural exchange between the two countries".

The Prince will meet senior figures in Chinese and British business including China's two richest men, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma and Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin - both of whom have interests in Britain.

Business ties between the UK and China are strong despite a turbulent political relationship.

Britain is already China's most popular European destination for outbound investment.

In 2014, Chinese investment into Britain was worth £7.7bn. British investment into China was more at £11bn, according to the China British Business Council.

The Chinese government has predicted that its investment globally will grow from £64bn in 2014 to £324bn within five years. Cultural exchanges and high profile visits like Prince William's are designed to ensure as much of that investment as possible comes to the UK.

However, the Prince must negotiate a tricky political relationship between Beijing and London.

A rift following a meeting between David Cameron and the Dalai Lama in May 2012 appeared to be healed by a visit by Mr Cameron to China in November 2013.

But further diplomatic baggage remains over China's questionable human rights record and democracy in Hong Kong.

Homegrown calls for genuinely democratic elections in the former British colony have been blocked by Beijing, which accuses Britain of "meddling in China's domestic affairs".

The final leg of the Prince's China tour will allow him to focus on his favourite cause - combating the illegal wildlife trade.

He will visit China's only elephant sanctuary on the border with Laos and Myanmar. For the first time on Chinese soil, he will be able to call for the country to end its illegal wildlife trade .

A combination of lax law enforcement, corruption, a lack of education and a population with increasing spending power all contribute to the Chinese ivory trade which is driving the African elephant population to extinction.

Conservation groups agree that while China is the main protagonist in the illegal wildlife trade and that the elephant is the "celebrity" of the endangered species, numerous other species are at risk of extinction and a number of countries in Asia should also carry blame.

The Prince is expected to broaden his focus beyond elephants and ivory in a keynote speech at a conservation conference on Wednesday.

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