Boris Johnson has insisted he is “absolutely thrilled” that George Osborne is visiting China at the same time as him while appearing to admit he had little warning of the timing of the Chancellor’s trip.
Both the London Mayor and Mr Osborne have long been touted as successors to David Cameron as Conservative Party leader and their visits come at a time of thawing relations following a diplomatic row over the Prime Minister meeting the Dalai Lama last year.
Both Mr Osborne’s and Mr Johnson’s trips have been in the pipeline for months but the timing of the Chancellor’s visit was revealed more recently than the Mayor’s.
Mr Johnson stressed he was “very pleased” that Mr Osborne was visiting while admitting the timing was handled by the Government.
Talking to reporters at an event to promote British brands in Beijing, Mr Johnson said: “I feel very, very pleased that the Government at all levels is reflecting on the importance of China. It’s great that George is coming, I think we’re doing a double act tomorrow at Peking University and that will give us a chance to stress that the UK is one of the world capitals of education.
“London has more higher education institutions than any other city on Earth. Although Beijing apparently has even more than London, we gloss over that detail.
Asked if he was surprised that Mr Osborne chose to visit at the same time, he said: “I think this was a question that was handled by the Government and the Foreign Office and I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s worked out in the way that it has because I think it just adds to our ability to get our message across and I think it shows our Chinese friends the seriousness with which we take our engagement with China.”
Asked if Treasury officials spoke to him before arranging Mr Osborne’s visit, he said: “There’s been a long process of working on this trip to maximise the impact and I hope it will be very successful.”