MASTERSof publicity Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic turned their hand to the subject of Chinese diplomacy last week in Shanghai.

Branson had secured the services of Crystal Palace’s two Chinese internationals to bolster a Virgin team against a scratch Chinese squad.

But his first move was a master-stroke. Before a ball had even been kicked, he gave one of the stars to the Chinese. This balanced the teams, but Virgin, with Branson poaching in the goal mouth like a bearded Michael Owen, raced into a 4-1 half-time lead.

Plainly this was a risky score when you are planning to launch Virgin products to 1.2bn people and need local backing.

No problem. Swap referees and give the whistle to Virgin’s head of PR Paul Moore.

He wasted no time in giving away a couple of penalties to the Chinese and with two other goals against Virgin, the Red Army won the match 5-4. Much back-slapping later, everyone left the Shanghai stadium happy – with Virgin’s contracts looking safe for Chinese signatures.