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UK looking toward China as Brexit process set to launch

By Li Wensha in London | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-14 07:37

Relations between China and the United Kingdom are gaining momentum as British Prime Minister Theresa May is poised this week to begin the process of taking the UK out of the European Union.

"The China-UK relationship at age 45 is entering a new phase of increased maturity," said Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, as the two countries marked the 45th anniversary of ambassadorial relations on Monday.

Liu said the two countries must be "more innovative in our cooperation in broader areas and at greater depth to ensure that China-UK relations bear more golden fruit in this golden era".

In the past 45 years, bilateral trade between China and the UK has increased 200-fold, said Alok Sharma, UK Minister for Asia and the Pacific. The UK is now one of the top destinations for Chinese investment and China is the UK's second largest export market outside Europe.

"The global partnership established during President Xi Jinping's successful visit to the UK in 2015 is delivering real benefits for both nations," Sharma wrote in an article for China Daily.

London is looking for sources of growth as it prepares for the uncertainty that will follow its departure from the EU, analysts said.

"As we prepare to leave the European Union, the UK will build a truly global Britain that is open for business, and brings with it new and exciting opportunities for our partnership with China," Sharma said.

George Osborne, 45, former UK chancellor of the exchequer, said: "China is such an important part of the world now. When China grows, the whole world grows."

Osborne said the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was a great opportunity for British companies to work on projects in China and Central Asia. "Many British companies that are brilliant at infrastructure, design and architecture have already been involved in some of China's airports and urban regeneration projects," he said.

The UK was the first major Western country to ratify its membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

China and Britain have worked closely to strengthen financial and economic links, including issuing the first renminbi sovereign bond outside China and enhancing London's position as the largest renminbi center outside China. Britain was also the first Western country to welcome investment from Chinese nuclear companies.

Sino-British links have flourished in a variety of sectors. Chinese investors now have major interests in several English soccer clubs, including Manchester City, Aston Villa and Birmingham, and Chinese visitors to Britain have doubled in five years, with around 150,000 Chinese students now studying across the UK and 7,000 British students studying in China.

Wang Mingjie contributed to this story.

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