October 21, 2015 / 2:35 AM / in 2 years

China's Xi talks soccer, wildlife with Britain's royals

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping talked soccer, wildlife protection and climate change when he met senior members of Britain’s royal family during a state visit to London, according to Chinese government accounts released on Wednesday.

Britain's Prince Charles (L) speaks with China's President Xi Jinping at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London, Britain October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Justin Tallis/pool

The British royal family has had a mixed relationship with China over the years.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles is close to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, while Charles and his son Prince William have expressed concern that Chinese demand for ivory is encouraging the poaching of elephants.

However, William received a warm welcome when he visited China in March and met Xi.

Xi told Prince Charles when they met in London he appreciated the royal family’s efforts to promote Sino-British relations and would welcome more visits by them to China, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

The two also discussed sustainable development - a subject close to Charles’ heart - climate change and clean energy, the ministry said in a short statement.

Xi spoke to William about wildlife protection, explaining the important achievements China had made especially in tackling the illegal trade in wildlife, it said.

They also “exchanged views” on Britain-China soccer cooperation too.

Xi is an avid soccer fan, even if the national team generally performs poorly in international competitions.

He will visit Manchester City football club, accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron, on Friday.

Despite the public display of goodwill, some British commentators have suggested Charles was deliberately skipping a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in Xi’s honor .

A royal source told Reuters it was not a snub, pointing out Charles would be spending more time with Xi than any other royal during his four-day visit to Britain.

Unlike in 2008 and 2012, Charles did not meet the Dalai Lama, who has described the prince as “very close ... best of friends”, when he visited Britain last month.

The Global Times, an influential Chinese tabloid, downplayed Charles’s absence at the banquet, saying he still had a “grand meeting with Xi”. The paper has in the past said Britain was good for little these days but tourism and education.

“Most elites in the UK are aware that Xi’s visit bears an unusual and historical significance and means more to Britain. We believe that Prince Charles is better aware of this and therefore declined to meet with the Dalai Lama,” it said in an editorial.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait

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