Like all major visits, David Cameron’s trip to China was planned in advance in detail by diplomats from both sides. The FT has seen a transcript of the final discussion.

OK, so we’ve all agreed on the itinerary. Now I think we just need to tiptoe into some of the more tricky issues of protocol and subjects for discussion. Shall we start with the welcoming ceremony?

Yes. Your prime minister will be greeted by our premier, Wen Jiabao, in the Great Hall of the People and inspect a guard of honour. He and his ministers will witness the signing of the deal for 16 Rolls-Royce aircraft engines. Early discussions will then be followed by a banquet, also in the Great Hall, in which we will serve lobster soup and rib-eye steak.

Well that sounds splendid. Now on the delicate matters of human rights … The prime minister would like to discuss your relationship with the Dalai Lama.

We understand the prime minister’s position. We will just need to make some small revisions to the schedule. Instead of Mr Wen, he will be greeted by the second secretary (commercial) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We will witness the signing of the trade deal for 16 life vests for a Gulf Airstream and then enjoy an intimate dinner at the Number Seven Noodle House in the migrant labourers district.

I see. Perhaps we can leave the Dalai Lama to one side.

It might be for the best.

However, Mr Cameron does wish to talk about Tibet. He wants to say that he spoke about Tibet with Premier Wen.

Perhaps the prime minister might wish to inquire about infrastructure and modernisation in Tibet. We could talk in detail about that and he can then say he raised the issue.

Splendid. Well, into the breach then; Mr Cameron feels it is politically impossible for him to avoid discussing human rights.

Naturally, we are delighted to have your prime minister lecture us on the superiority of your model as he visits, cap in hand, to beg us to fund your debt and buy your products.


Perhaps if Mr Cameron prefaced his remarks stressing that he has no intention to lecture his hosts …

So he will begin his lecture by declaring it is not a lecture. That may help, but there is no possibility of him mentioning individual cases.

Mr Cameron feels under domestic pressure on this. Naturally, he is aware of sensitivities and does not wish to give offence but he will lose face if he cannot tell the British people that he brought up the matter of Liu Xiaobo.

We understand the importance your prime minister attaches to appearances. Very well, he may brief the press that he raised the matter.

Excellent, thank you. Now when and how do you suggest he raise it?

We did not say he could raise it. We said he could tell people he had.

I’m afraid the prime minister would feel very uneasy lying about the Nobel laureate. Perhaps it could come up in the general conversation with President Hu.

That would be unfortunate. Mr Hu would feel obliged to raise the concerns of your Mayor of London about the Kosovo-style ethnic cleansing of his City. We may also voice our unease at your use of control orders without conviction and the imprisoning of Mr Vince Cable, who we understand is held under cabinet arrest and unable to speak freely on issues.

Mr Cameron needs to raise the issue with someone.

He may mention it to the doorman on the way in but his remarks will not be translated.

I see, well getting back to the general issue, then …

The British prime minister may discuss reform but he may also wish to admire our economic success and mention our increasingly pivotal role at the top table of global affairs.

“Top table of global affairs” – yes I’m sure we can do that.

In which case we would be content for him to echo the words of President Obama, speaking broadly as a candid friend about the value of freedom and political reform.

And he would make these remarks during his discussion with Mr Hu?

We thought perhaps a speech to students might be more appropriate.

Won’t that look like a lecture? Anyway we agree.

That would be most acceptable. It may be possible to add pan fried cod in lychee sauce and eight delicacies in pear to the menu for the banquet.

Pleasure doing business with you.

One last thing …


There seems to be a mistake in our list. This photographer is not really part of the official delegation, is he?

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