Mr. Ai, who says he was recently put under house arrest by the Chinese authorities after thousands of people accepted his invitation to a party at his condemned studio in Shanghai, currently enjoys a high profile in the UK as the creator of an art installation in London’s prestigious Tate Modern art gallery.
The artist had also used an article Monday in Britain’s Guardian newspaper to bemoan the growing reluctance of foreign leaders to raise sensitive topics during meetings with Chinese counterparts for fear of losing business.
"Since the global economic crisis began, the change in global attitudes is clear to see and I think it is pitiful,” he wrote.
In public at least, there was little evidence Tuesday that Cameron was going to risk upsetting China. Instead, he said that he wanted to double bilateral trade with China to more than $100 billion a year by 2015.
Even so, commentators like Kerry Brown, a China expert at the London-based Chatham House foreign policy think-tank, said that Cameron was known to have strong views on the case of China’s jailed Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo and would surely raise the issue.