Op-Ed Contributors

Election a boost to Sino-UK ties

By Andrew Moody (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-08 07:50
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The UK, on the other hand, was quick to recognize the People's Republic of China - in 1950 - and has had an ambassador to the country since 1972. There is an essence a mutual respect between them, both having ancient civilizations (although Britain's is less old) and both sharing a certain wariness of outsiders.

The modern relationship is built around trade. Britain's bilateral trade with China stood at $39.15 billion last year. The UK's exports to China were worth $7.88 billion and it imported $31.28 billion, resulting in a significant trade deficit of $23.4 billion. The UK, though, had a small surplus in services of $1.19 billion. Its services exports to China were worth $2.471 billion and its imports from China $1.27 billion.

Britain claims to be the largest European Union investor in China with $16.37 billion injected in the country at the end of last year, just a nose ahead of Germany's $16.3 billion.

Although there might be a trade imbalance between the two countries, Britain maintains a leading position in many industrial sectors and it is the know-how and expertise of these companies that China still needs.

Something else that could cement the UK's future economic relationship with China is the huge number of Chinese students studying in Britain's universities, some 75,000. At Oxford University, Chinese students are the biggest foreign nationality group after Americans.

William Hague, who is likely to become foreign secretary if Cameron wins the election, said recently that Britain needed to strengthen its relationship with China. But no matter which government is elected, it will want a closer bond with China. The British know the relationship will become more unequal as China is set to emerge as the world's largest economy some time in this century. Even if the UK returns to the economic success it enjoyed before the economic crisis, it is likely to drop out of the world's top 10 economies because its population is dwarfed by those of China, India, Brazil and Russia.

That is the reality. Britain, however, does not want to compete with China. Its vested interest and that of the developed world relies on China continuing its economic success, whatever other political differences may surface from time to time.

The author is a former House of Commons-based lobby correspondent.

(China Daily 04/08/2010 page9)

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