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Blair: Xi's visit to mark 'golden decade'

By Ji Tao and Zhang Chunyan | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2015-10-18 09:05

Former PM says UK has opportunity to become best western partner for China

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has predicted that President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United Kingdom will usher in a "golden decade" and a new dimension for cooperation between China and the UK.

"It's possible to get to an even higher and increased level of cooperation, not just economically, but politically," Blair said ahead of Xi's arrival in London on Oct 19. The state visit, the first by a Chinese head of state for 10 years, will last until Oct 23.

 Blair: Xi's visit to mark 'golden decade'

Former British prime minister Tony Blair describes President Xi Jinping as a leader with a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish. Zhang Chunyan / China Daily

"How China develops its role in the world has massive implications for everyone today," says Blair, who served as the Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007. "There is no big global problem that can be sorted without China."

He describes Xi as a leader with a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish, one who knows his country faces challenges and is determined to overcome them.

According to media reports, business deals, including on nuclear energy and high-speed rail, will be key topics for discussion between China and the UK during the president's visit.

"The UK needs major infrastructure investment in nuclear power and rail construction, and China has the expertise in both, as well as the capital to deploy," Blair says. "For Britain, nuclear power is very important for the energy mix. We need to make sure we have diversity of supply. We want to keep this going, but again it's a big investment for the future. China is going to be our partner in this, along with France.

"If we renew our railways," he adds, "we can actually ease a lot of problems of overcrowding, housing and difficulties of people finding work. You must get the rail networks up to speed as a high-speed rail network."

During a visit to China in September, British Chancellor George Osborne emphasized Sino-British collaboration on nuclear power and high-speed rail, and said the UK would become China's "best partner in the West".

"Britain really has got the opportunity to become the best Western partner for China," Blair says. "We want to do this. We joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is important."

In terms of trade and investment, Blair says UK-China relations are incredibly important. China is the UK's fourth-largest trading partner, while the UK is China's second-largest trading partner in the European Union and a top destination for Chinese investment.

Blair says the two countries share views in many areas, such as climate change and combating terrorism, and stresses that people-to-people exchanges are vital, such as the thousands of Chinese who study in the UK.

"We want to send more British students to China," he says. "When these people come back to their home country after studying, they know more about the country (China), they know more about the people and culture, which makes for a stronger relationship.

"Major British universities are now established in China, and we have British schools that have also set up in China, and this is very important. We need to do a lot more."

Blair says the UK is enthusiastic about further developing its relations with China to ensure that the next 10 years are a golden decade. During the decade he spent as prime minister, he says he put a great deal of emphasis on establishing a strong relationship with China.

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