May reaf­firms ‘golden era’ in Sino-UK re­la­tion­ship

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By ZHANG YUNBI in Hangzhou and MOJINGXI in Bei­jing Con­tact the writer at zhangyunbi@chi­

Be­fore her first visit to China on Sun­day to at­tend the G20 Sum­mit, Bri­tain’s new Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May re­it­er­ated that “this is a golden era for UK-China re­la­tions”.

Ob­servers im­me­di­ately noted the sig­nif­i­cance of the com­ment, which pub­licly re­in­forced the view of the pre­vi­ous res­i­dent of No 10 Down­ing Street, David Cameron.

Af­ter Cameron stepped down ear­lier this year fol­low­ing the Euro­pean Union ref­er­en­dum and was re­placed by May, she did not im­me­di­ately re­fer in pub­lic to a “golden era”.

China is the UK’s sec­ond­largest non-Euro­pean trad­ing part­ner, while the UK is the largest in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion in Europe for Chi­nese busi­nesses.

Some me­dia com­men­ta­tors and ob­servers have ques­tioned whether the gov­ern­ments will con­tinue to strengthen ties. But be­fore board­ing her plane for China on Satur­day, May told Bri­tish me­dia that she will be talk­ing with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping about “how we can de­velop the strate­gic part­ner­ship that we have be­tween the UK and China”.

May wasted lit­tle time in get­ting down to busi­ness af­ter her ar­rival on Sun­day morn­ing in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, in­clud­ing a quick change of at­tire. Wear­ing black as she stepped off the plane, May ap­peared in red, match­ing the car­pet, as she walked to meet Xi and shake hands ahead of the sum­mit’s af­ter­noon ses­sion.

Feng Zhong­ping, vice-pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said May’s pub­lic reaf­fir­ma­tion of the “golden era” sends a mes­sage.

“The sig­nal is ev­i­dent,” Feng said. “The May cabi­net is will­ing to main­tain close co­op­er­a­tive ties with China.”

Be­cause she had not ex­plic­itly used the term “golden era”, she may have in­ad­ver­tently played into ques­tions about whether ties re­mained as strong as they were un­der Cameron.

Now, the May cabi­net “plans to take China-UK ties back to the heights achieved dur­ing Pres­i­dent Xi’s visit to the UK last year”, Feng said.

Liu Xiaom­ing, China’s am­bas­sador to Bri­tain, said in a signed ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Pol­i­tics First Mag­a­zine on Fri­day that “our strong con­fi­dence in China-UK re­la­tions re­mains un­changed”.

About the Xi-May meet­ing, Liu said: “I’m con­vinced that the meet­ing will set new goals, map out a new blue­print and in­tro­duce new dy­namism for the fu­ture of China-UK re­la­tions.”

Ahead of her trip, May was also asked about pos­si­ble prob­lems with Bei­jing over her sus­pen­sion of a partly Chi­nese-funded nu­clear power sta­tion deal, but she did not re­spond di­rectly.

The Hink­ley Point nu­clear project in Som­er­set, a county in Eng­land’s south­west, in­volves a power sta­tion de­signed and built by France’s EDF, but with China pick­ing up a third of the bill — 18 bil­lion pounds ($23.9 bil­lion).

Shi Yin­hong, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Ren­min Univer­sity of China, noted that as both China and France have stakes in the project, Lon­don “has no other op­tion but to fur­ther de­velop its winwin, im­por­tant eco­nomic ties with Bei­jing”.

Zhao Jun­jie, an ex­pert on Euro­pean stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said there will be no fun­da­men­tal changes in UK pol­icy to­ward China, as “it is im­por­tant to ex­pand mar­kets out­side of Europe af­ter the Brexit”, re­fer­ring to the UK’s voter-ap­proved exit from the Euro­pean Union.


Theresa May, Bri­tain’s prime min­is­ter, ar­rives at the G20 Sum­mit venue on Sun­day.

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