By Andrew Osborn
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese state newspaper on Tuesday accused British Prime Minister David Cameron, in Shanghai on a visit aimed at deepening trade cooperation, of meddling in China's affairs.
The Global Times newspaper published an editorial headlined "China won't fall for Cameron's 'sincerity'" in which it accused Britain of backing Japan in a row with Beijing about airspace over the East China Sea and said London had been meddling in Hong Kong, its former colony.
It dismissed Britain as "just an old European country apt for travel and study", saying it was not a big world power.
Cameron, on the second day of a visit to China, is trying to rebuild relations with the world's second largest economy after a rift with Beijing over the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, prompted him to cancel a trip last year after China said its leaders would not be available to meet him.
"Beijing needs to speed up the pace of turning its strength into diplomatic resources and make London pay the price for when it intrudes into the interests of China," the article said.
It appeared as Cameron hosted scores of Chinese business people at a lunch in Shanghai after what he said were successful meetings with China's leadership on Monday.
On a three-day visit with around 100 business people, the largest-ever British mission of its kind, Cameron is presenting Britain as the Western country most open to Chinese investment.
FACTS AND FIGURES
He said the facts and figures behind his trade trip and the two countries' economic ties spoke for themselves.
"I would just prefer to go on the figures," he told reporters when asked about the article.
"This is a visit that has delivered almost 6 billion pounds worth of deals. It is a visit that comes on the back of an 18-month period where we have seen more Chinese investment into Britain in the last 18 months than in the previous 30 years."
China's Premier Li Keqiang had described Beijing's partnership with Britain as "indispensable," Cameron added.
Free Tibet, a rights group, said before the trip it was worried that Cameron would put promoting trade before human rights, but Cameron has said he did raise rights issues with China while declining to go into detail.
He said on Tuesday he made no apologies for visiting China on a mission principally aimed at boosting commercial ties.
"You don't have to know all the facts and figures about China to know that China's economic rise is going to play a huge role in the world and Britain should be in there pitching for business, pitching for investment, pitching for deals, securing jobs at home," he said.
"People fully understand this is an important part of a prime minister's job - to get out there and beat the drum for your country."
The Global Times is a widely-read and influential newspaper with a strong nationalist bent published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily.
While it is known for being strongly opinionated, especially when it comes to areas where it feels China's national interests and pride have been wounded, it is not a government mouthpiece.
The editorial about Cameron appeared in both the Chinese and English editions.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Janet Lawrence)