British Prime Minister David Cameron, upholding his unofficial role as the UK’s ambassador of pop culture to China, presented Li Keqiang with a copy of the first-ever episode of “Downton Abbey”, autographed by creator Julian Fellowes, during the premier’s visit to the UK this past week.
While it’s unclear if Li himself is a diehard fan of the Crawley crew and company, it’s no secret that British TV dramas are massively popular among China’s TV fanatics—who even appealed to Cameron in December to see their beloved Benedict Cumberbatch back on the air.
A study from last year showed that dramas like “Downton” and “Sherlock” were the most discussed foreign shows among white collar viewers in China, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The trend mirrored what Chinese television critics have taken to calling the “disdain chain” in which fans of British TV look down on fans of U.S. shows and aficionados of American TV snub Korean soap fans, who turn up their noses at people who simply like local Chinese TV.
This UK visit was the first by a Chinese premier since 2012, when Cameron cooked up some hearty controversy for his meeting with the Dalai Lama. Speaking at a Sino-British mistrial summit, Cameron said the partnership between the two countries was “gaining in strength, depth and understanding”.
Li was also received by The Queen and Windsor Castle on Tuesday, as per his request.