By Jennifer Duggan
The Duke of Cambridge’s comments on the illegal wildlife trade are less likely to have an impact on Chinese people than homegrown stars
Prince William will criticise the illegal wildlife trade in a speech in Washington on Monday. He is expected to note that in China the wholesale price of ivory has increased from $5 (£3) to $2,100 (£1,472) per kilogram in 25 years, and that poaching has increased as a result.
The Duke is to visit China next year and is also expected to up bring up the issue of illegal wildlife trade during the trip. The China Daily newspaper quoted Kensington Palace as saying that the duke will promote “UK-China relations, people to people links, and in support of his work to combat the illegal wildlife trade and support wildlife conservation”.
According to some media reports, the Duke’s comments could cause a diplomatic row with China – but he is not likely to have much impact on the Chinese public.
The Royal Family are popular in China but people are not likely to know much about the Duke himself. The Duchess and her famous fashion choices are more likely to make an impression. In fact when faced with a picture of the Duke and Duchess, many Chinese people didn’t know who they were and mistook them for actors. One person knew who they were but not the Duke’s name, calling him Prince Kate.
China is the largest market for illegal wildlife trade. Ivory is popular among wealthy Chinese, rhino horn and other rare animal parts are popular as remedies in traditional Chinese medicine.
Last month, a report claimed that a Chinese delegation accompanying president Xi Jinping to Tanzania last year purchased so much illegal elephant ivory that the prices spiked. These claims were denied by the Chinese government.
But with many Chinese people not knowing who he is, it is not likely that they will take much notice of the Duke. Homegrown stars are more likely to have success in raising awareness and have played a large role in conservation efforts.
The famous Chinese former basketball player Yao Ming has been part of a massive campaign using TV messages, billboards and social media to reduce demand for ivory in China. WildAid, who Yao worked with on a previous campaign over shark fin soup, said that they saw a change in public attitudes to the consumption of shark fin, especially among younger generations.
Another famous Chinese star who is taking part in awareness campaigns is actor Jackie Chan. He said that attitudes towards buying illegal wildlife products are undergoing “a big change”. Chan is also an ambassador for WildAid and features in a primetime advertising campaign that airs on China’s main television channel CCTV.