More than mere diplo­macy can boost Sino-Bri­tish friend­ship

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD REVIEW -

It’s been a while since I vis­ited par­ents in China, and this time I no­ticed some­thing dif­fer­ent when I went to ap­ply for my Chi­nese visa, be­cause I have taken up for­eign ci­ti­zen­ship.

I turned up 15 min­utes be­fore the visa center opened, ex­pect­ing to get the first num­ber. But there were quite a few peo­ple there ahead of me.

I sat down and waited as more peo­ple streamed in. There were old cou­ples with gray hair, stu­dents car­ry­ing big back­packs, par­ents hold­ing their chil­dren’s hands and pro­fes­sion­als in busi­ness suits.

Five years ago, if I had walked into the center dur­ing a busy time, I would have been called up soon. But not any­more — the center has grad­u­ally be­come crowded. Two years ago, it moved to much larger of­fices in the heart of Lon­don’s fi­nan­cial dis­trict.

One rea­son is the mas­sive growth in the num­ber of Bri­tish cit­i­zens who want to visit China for ed­u­ca­tional or cul­tural the Chi­nese want­ing to in­vest in a nu­clear power sta­tion and high-speed train sys­tem in this coun­try. Why are peo­ple scared of China?” I asked.

Bill laughed, seem­ing more amused than of­fended. “That’s be­cause they see China as fast-grow­ing and pow­er­ful and don’t know what to make of it. But when I speak to my friend and his fam­ily, we get on fine as hu­man be­ings,” he said.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron vis­ited China last week with a del­e­ga­tion of more than 100 busi­ness lead­ers. But it is also worth not­ing that an es­ti­mated 570,000 Bri­tish cit­i­zens travel to China each year. Their sin­cere and open com­mu­ni­ca­tion is at least as im­por­tant as of­fi­cial diplo­macy in build­ing friend­ships.

Sit­ting in the center, watch­ing peo­ple of all ages and eth­nic back­grounds, I felt this process is well un­der way. Con­tact the writer at ce­cily.liu@chi­

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