Cameron hints at Chinese state visit

The prime minister has raised the possibility of a state visit to the UK by China's President Xi in the near future.

The last such visit - by his predecessor President Hu - was in 2005.

Speaking in Chengdu on the third day of his tour of China, David Cameron told me: "I think it would be a good thing to happen in the future.

"I think the relations between Britain and China, as the Chinese president put it to me, are going to a new level - what the premier described as an indispensible partnership.

"I think those are important words and words that I will make sure we do everything we can to build on."

President Xi is due to visit France next month.

The prime minister also insisted that yesterday's article in China's Global Times - which referred to Britain as an old European country which was no longer a big power - did not reflect the views of the Chinese leaders he had met.

"You should never take too much from one newspaper headline. The same newspaper today has apparently said this visit has been a 'win-win' for both countries economically and politically.

"More important is to look at the facts. The fact of this visit is it has secured over £6bn of deals for British companies, investment into our country, jobs secured and also a stronger relationship between Britain and China. I spent almost three hours with the president and this matters, this is important."

I asked the prime minister why he had not "banged the drum" for democracy in China as well as for British business. He replied: "I don't think I did hold back in saying what I think.

"I said there are differences in our systems, differences in our values but I think what matters in international relations is to understand those differences to show respect for each other but also to work very hard to make sure we benefit from China's rise."