The highest ranking British royal to visit China in 30 years arrived in Beijing on March 3. The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, second in line to the British throne behind his father Prince Charles, made a brief stop in Beijing before heading to Shanghai for a business conference. The final stop of his four-day visit, somewhat surprisingly, is planned to be Xishuangbanna in Yunnan.
His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle and Personal Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty The Queen, is in Shanghai primarily to promote trade between China and the United Kingdom. The prince will open and attend the three-day Great Festival of Creativity, billed by organizers at UK Trade and Investment as "a dynamic celebration of creativity in business, and the start of a new dialogue between global enterprises".
Before taking part in the Shanghai business fair, Prince William visited Beijing for largely symbolic meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Li Yuanchao, China's vice-president. During his meeting with Xi, Prince William delivered an invitation from Queen Elizabeth formally requesting Xi make a state visit to England in 2016.
Following a tour of the Forbidden City, the two men discussed their mutual interest in international football as well as the prince's involvement in wildlife conservation and international anti-poaching initiatives. The latter issue has been of special concern to the prince for several years. In 2014, Prince William founded the charity United for Wildlife, a consortium of seven wildlife NGOs, with the goal of fighting "the rising and apparently insatiable demand, much of it from Asia" for endangered animals.
Before departing China, Prince William will come to Yunnan to visit the province's cross-border elephant reserve it shares with Laos. Writers in the British media have wondered if the prince would push officials in Beijing to do more regarding the importation, both legal and illegal, of rare animals into China. He has reportedly yet to do so, perhaps because one day before his arrival, China enacted a yearlong ban on the importation of all ivory from Africa.
The prince's stop in Yunnan could be a way for him and Chinese officials to signal a tacit understanding on protecting elephants without actually addressing the issue. Since 2005, Prince William has been a Royal Patron of Tusk, an organization working in Africa promoting community development and environmental education programs.
The elephant preserve in Xishuangbanna was established in 2009. It encompasses 54,700 hectares — 31,000 of which are in China — and was designed to protect the country's last wild elephant herd. Conservation efforts surrounding the reserve have met with mixed results and elephants have sporadically mauled or killed villagers living nearby. In late 2014, the carcass of a bull elephant was discovered inside the park, its tusks apparently removed with a chainsaw.
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