News Analysis: China-Britain ＂Golden Era＂ on fast track to bear new fruit
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May, meet the press after a China-Britain annual dialogue between heads of government, in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 31, 2018. (Xinhua/Ding Haitao)
Amid critical Brexit negotiations, a new era for "Global Britain" is being unveiled, which has set a stage for British Prime Minister Theresa May's visit to China, offering an opportunity to shift the China-Britain "Golden Era" into a higher gear.
NEW PARTNERSHIP TO BE ESTABLISHED
May's three-day visit starting on Wednesday was the first by a British prime minister to China since Chinese President Xi Jinping's tour to Britain in 2015 when both sides agreed to embrace a "Golden Era" for bilateral ties.
May, who kicked off her three-day visit to China in the city of Wuhan, is accompanied by leaders of over 50 British business and commercial organizations.
British ambassador to China Barbara Woodward said May is seeking a "more ambitious" trading relationship with China, further strengthening cooperation in such fields such as finance, education, food, health, medicine, life science, among others, Woodward said.
Liam Fox, British Secretary of State for International Trade, said that Britain's exit from the EU means that the nation will be free to make its own decisions about its trade and investment partnerships.
"When the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, there were many people around the world who identified the result as a potential symptom of insularity," Fox said.
"We are here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. The referendum vote to leave the union has offered us an unprecedented opportunity," he said.
"For the first time in more than four decades, we have the opportunity to forge new trade partnerships around the world, old friends and new allies. We are building a truly global Britain," he added.
"We will have to think about China as a new kind of partner where we are trying to deliver some of the things we currently get from the EU (European Union) and America, from a partner that hasn't traditionally been in that sort of role," said Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London.
Britain has kept a steadfast and steady commitment to the Golden-Era partnership with China, Barbara Woodward has said ahead of May's visit to the Asian country.
"We went (through) a lot of shifts around the world since our decision to leave the EU (European Union), but I would say our commitment to the Golden-Era partnership with China has remained constant, steadfast and steady," Woodward said.
"The UK could become an even bigger investment destination for China, a bigger finance partner, and a bigger intellectual partner in terms of the way that universities work together," Brown said.
"GOLDEN ERA" TO BE ENRICHED
"The leaders of both countries are expected to enrich the meaning of the 'Golden Era' and chart a new course for the future ties," said Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming, adding that "Golden fruits" have already been yielded since the consensus of "Golden Era" was reached by both sides.
Britain is China's second largest trading partner within the European Union (EU) and China is Britain's second largest non-EU trading partner.Trade volume between the two countries hit 79 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, up nearly 6.2 percent from the previous year, with Britain's exports to China increasing 19.4 percent.
Meanwhile, more than 500 Chinese enterprises have set up their offices in Britain, with a total of 21.8 billion U.S. dollars invested in projects ranging from traditional areas like trade, finance and telecommunications to such emerging areas as new energy, high-end manufacturing, infrastructure and research centers, Liu noted.
Refuting some media reports that Britain had an "ambiguous" attitude toward the Belt and Road Initiative, British ambassador to China Barbara Woodward made it clear that Britain is eyeing closer cooperation with China, saying Britain was especially keen to work on the initiative in three ways.
First, British companies are keen to foster partnerships with Chinese companies and take them to other countries along the Belt and Road.
Second, Britain would like to bring some of London's financing experience to help create a solid financial and legal footing for big projects.
Third, Britain would like to share its experience of international engagement and multilateral organizations as the Belt and Road spreads out, so as to maintain high operational standards.
As a major outcome reached at the recent China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD), China and Britain proposed a bilateral investment fund with the first round of 1 billion dollars to support the initiative.
In a bid to support British businesses' involvement in the initiative, the British government recently pledged up to 25 billion British pounds (33.3 billion dollars) worth of financial support for companies participating in the Belt and Road projects in Asia.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to achieve infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.