'Britain is merely a country of old Europe with a few decent football teams': Chinese newspaper criticises UK during David Cameron visit

Prime Minister 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 attending

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David Cameron today dismissed an editorial in a Government-run Chinese newspaper which labelled Britain as a fallen power only good as a destination for tourism and studying.

The Global Times also took Cameron to task 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.

"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."

It added 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."

Asked about the article Mr Cameron said he would prefer to "stick with the facts and the figures."

"This is a trip that has delivered almost six billion pounds worth of deals, a visit that comes off the back of an 18 month period in which we have seen more Chinese investment than in the previous 30 years," he said.

"It is also a visit in which we have seen very good high level and substantial discussions both with the Premier and the President. The premier described the partnership as indispensable."

The editorial's tone was said to be typical of the strain of 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."