An ideal op­por­tu­nity to en­hance Sino-UK re­la­tions

The UK’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape has al­tered rad­i­cally since Oc­to­ber, when Pres­i­dent Xi rode through cen­tral Lon­don in a state car­riage on his way to Buck­ing­ham Palace as a guest of Queen El­iz­a­beth II.

China Daily (USA) - - G20 2016 CHINA - Chris Peter­son isManag­ing Di­rec­tor for China Daily in Europe. Con­tact the writer at chris@mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

When China hosts the G20 Sum­mit next month the event will pro­vide an ideal op­por­tu­nity for the United King­dom’s newPrimeMin­is­ter, There­saMay, to meet se­nior of­fi­cials af­ter a change of di­rec­tion on a key project, and get the “golden era” back on track.

In ef­fect, the moves have al­ready started. Newly ap­pointed UKMin­is­ter for Asia and the Pa­cific, Alok Sharma, re­cently made his first visit to China and handed a let­ter for Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping from PrimeMin­is­ter May to China’s For­eignMin­is­terWang Yi.

In the let­ter, May said the UK sup­ports China’s suc­cess­ful host­ing of the sum­mit and ex­pects to en­hance bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion on trade, the econ­omy and global is­sues.

The UK’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape has al­tered rad­i­cally since Oc­to­ber, when Pres­i­dent Xi rode through cen­tral Lon­don in a state car­riage on his way to Buck­ing­ham Palace as a guest of Queen El­iz­a­beth II.

In­sta­bil­ity and un­cer­tainty flour­ished as Britons voted in fa­vor of leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, caus­ing the abrupt res­ig­na­tion of then-PrimeMin­is­ter David Cameron, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion had pur­sued a pol­icy of a stronger, closer re­la­tion­ship with Bei­jing, be­com­ing a founder mem­ber of the China-backed Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank, and strongly sup­port­ing China’s po­si­tion that it should au­to­mat­i­cally gain mar­ket econ­omy sta­tus in De­cem­ber.

None of that has changed, but the shine has been taken off with the ar­rival of May as prime min­is­ter, and by a com­plete change of govern­ment per­son­nel, although it is still a Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment.

Abruptly this sum­mer, Greg Clarke, newly ap­pointed as sec­re­tary of state for busi­ness, en­ergy and in­dus­trial strat­egy, an­nounced a re­view of a con­tro­ver­sial 18 bil­lion pound ($23 bil­lion) project to build a French-de­signed nu­clear power plant at Hink­ley Point in south­west Eng­land. China is in­vest­ing one-third of the to­tal cost, with the un­der­stand­ing the UK’s next nu­clear project will be Chi­nese-de­signed and built.

The re­viewan­nounce­ment came barely 48 hours be­fore French, Chi­nese and UK of­fi­cials were due to hold a sign­ing cer­e­mony at the site.

The whys and where­fores of the Hink­ley Point project are well-known, in­clud­ing warn­ings of con­se­quences if the deal doesn’t go ahead.

What is vi­tal now is that UK min­is­ters and govern­ment of­fi­cials take the op­por­tu­nity of the G20 sum­mit to ex­plain to their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts ex­actly how the de­ba­cle was al­lowed to hap­pen.

TheUKsaysMay’snew ad­min­is­tra­tion needs time to study what is a highly con­tro­ver­sial plan, and that any­way it was only fol­low­ing the orig­i­nal timetable set out by the French.

It’s true that in the modern world in which we live, much of what goes on in pub­lic is the re­sult of count­less hours of ne­go­ti­a­tion by of­fi­cials in back rooms.

That doesn’t seem to have hap­pened in this case, as the Hink­ley Point re­view de­ci­sion was as much of a sur­prise to many govern­ment of­fi­cials as it was to China. It has cre­ated a point­less cri­sis at a time when the UK doesn’t need an­other cri­sis, deal­ing as it is with the un­knowns of “Brexit” and up­heavals in the do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

What the G20 of­fers is a golden op­por­tu­nity to get the golden era back on track.

That’s what should be hap­pen­ing in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince. The heal­ing process has al­ready started with Sharma’s visit.

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