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Sino-UK ties expected to grow more stable

By Tian Dewen | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-21 09:15
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When Premier Li Qiang met with United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, on Sept 10, marking the first high-level meeting between the Chinese and British governments since 2018, both sides expressed their willingness to develop stable bilateral relations.

When China passed the Law on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in June 2020, which effectively helped the Hong Kong SAR maintain its social order, some British politicians took a strong anti-China stance in response. This had a considerable negative impact on China-UK relations, so the face-to-face meeting between Li and Sunak was of positive significance for enhancing the stability of the two nations' ties.

First, it seems that senior British officials have played down the anti-China sentiment in political circles. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European energy crisis and the continuous interest rate hikes by the United States Federal Reserve, the post-Brexit British economy has been continuously slowing down in recent years, making it the "underperformer" among the G7 countries.

In August, the Bank of England predicted GDP growth of 0.5 percent for the UK in 2023, far below that of most European countries. In the next two years, the UK economy may still be unable to emerge from the trough, with GDP growth predicted to be only 0.5 percent and 0.25 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, China's economy continues to grow at a relatively high speed, which has caused widespread ideological prejudices and anxieties in the UK.

A few British politicians take advantage of this to pursue political gains by playing the "anti-China card", forming a "political correctness" of attacking China. British politicians should be well aware that being anti-China not only does not help the UK emerge from the economic downturn, but also harms the national interests of the UK.

Prior to the recent meeting in New Delhi, the British side had already made it clear that it had no intention of isolating China through a "new Cold War", and claimed to adopt a "strong and constructive" approach to engagement with China, creating the necessary atmosphere for the high-level meeting between the two countries.

Second, the political atmosphere for pragmatic cooperation between China and the UK is expected to improve. Despite the downturn in political relations in recent years, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has continued to steadily grow. During the China International Finance Annual Forum 2023 held in Beijing on Sept 3, James Sassoon, president of the China-Britain Business Council, said in his speech that China has become the UK's second-largest trading partner, with trade growth reaching 18.3 percent in 2022 and exceeding 1 trillion yuan ($137 billion) for the first time.

A report released by the British Chamber of Commerce in China shows that 86 percent of British companies are optimistic about the long-term potential of the Chinese market. Data released in June by China's Ministry of Commerce shows that actual British investment in China increased by 179.2 percent year-on-year from January to May this year.

In recent years, China-UK economic and trade relations have not been significantly affected by the twists and turns in the political relations between the two countries, which shows that the foundation of practical cooperation between the two countries is solid. If the political stability of China-UK relations can be enhanced in the future, it will undoubtedly help create a better atmosphere for expanding economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.

Third, both sides have established a consensus on handling differences through dialogue. The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. It is a fact that China and the UK have differences on many issues. During the high-level talks, the two sides reached a consensus on stabilizing bilateral relations while not denying their differences. This positive interaction was possible because China and the UK showed full mutual respect, stressed that there is broad space for practical cooperation, and emphasized that differences should be properly handled through dialogue.

China and the UK have expressed the common will to deepen practical cooperation on economy, trade, investment, science and technology and green development, as well as jointly support and promote global sustainable development and address global challenges such as climate change.

Premier Li said that China and the UK should properly handle differences, uphold the spirit of inclusiveness and mutual learning, and respect each other's core interests and major concerns. Sunak said that the British side is willing to engage in constructive and candid dialogue with China to properly handle differences.

As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and the UK bear important responsibility for building an open world economy, safeguarding the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core, and ensuring unimpeded global industrial and supply chains.

A stable political relationship between the two countries is conducive not only to the two peoples, but also to world peace and development.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

The author is deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies.

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