Big power diplomacy: China, Britain enhance trust and trade

BEIJING, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) — During what was dubbed as a “super state visit” to Britain, President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of deals worth 40 billion pounds (61.5 billion U.S. dollars).

The most talked-about project will see China holding a one-third stake in Britain’s first new nuclear plant in a generation.

Observers are praising the China-Britain partnership as exemplary in China-Europe cooperation and beyond.


China’s approach to dealing with major powers was clarified by Xi during his visit to the headquarters of the United Nations; a relationship featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

His state visit to Britain was regarded as many as a test for China’s diplomacy with big powers, and it has proven to be fruitful.

Britain rolled out the red carpet for Xi, the first Chinese head of state to visit the country in a decade. Queen Elizabeth II hosted an informal lunch and formal banquet. While Prime Minister David Cameron took Xi to see that age-old British institution — the pub.

“The Financial Times” said Xi’s visit was the “most important diplomatic visit to Britain in several years,” and would recalibrate the UK’s great-power relations.”

During the visit, China and Britain issued a joint declaration on their “global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century,” which will usher in a lasting, open, win-win “golden era.”

“The new definition of bilateral ties reflects both countries expect to achieve win-win cooperation with each other, but not only at the bilateral level,” said Feng Zhongping, vice president of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

As globally-influential countries, the China-Britain partnership can set an example for China-Europe cooperation and at the global level, Chen Xin with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said.

“Though there are disagreements between China and Britain, both countries can learn to manage them. As long as Britain adheres to the consensus reached with China, the differences won’t affect bilateral cooperation,” said Cui Hongjian, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.


Chinese and French companies signed an agreement to build an 18 billion pound nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C, with the CGN-led Chinese consortium holding a one-third stake.

China’s third-generation nuclear reactor design, known as Hualong One, is expected to be used, following British inspections.

Cameron described the Hinkley Point C deal as “historic” as the project would provide clean electricity to nearly 6 million homes and create over 25,000 jobs.

“Britain […] lacks the funds for the nuclear power plant due to the international financial crisis and the European debt crisis,” said Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University.

For China, the gains from the project go beyond economics. More important is the knock-on affect the project will have for China in the overseas nuclear market.

“Investment into overseas nuclear power plant is usually more substantial than at home. We will get returns from electricity sales and equipment procurement, because a large amount of this will be done in China,” said Zhou Dadi, a researcher with the energy studies center of the National Development and Reform Commission.

“The nuclear power plants in Britain will be benchmark projects for Chinese companies to develop the global market and increase people’s confidence in Hualong One in emerging markets,” CGN chair He Yu said.

Other deals included an agreement for BP to sell Huadian up to 1 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year; and Carnival UK and CSSC agreed to build seven new cruise ships over the next 10 years, among others.

During Xi’s visit, China’s central bank issued its first offshore renminbi note worth 5 billion yuan in London, and the two countries agreed to increase currency swaps.

These close economic and trade collaborations show that Britain is confident of China’s economic growth, and its leaders are aware of the opportunities emerging from China as it transitions from an economy driven by export and manufacturing to investment and services.

“By working with China to usher in a ‘golden era’, Britain has made it clear that they are willing to seize all the opportunities from China’s reform and growth,” Wang added.


The president often attends cultural activities during his foreign visits, his time in Britain was no different.

Cameron accompanied Xi to a pub and the two enjoyed a plate of fish and chips washed down with a pint of British ale. Xi also watched a performance featuring British and Chinese artists at an creative-industry exhibition.

Xi also addressed the opening ceremony of the annual Confucius Institute meeting, saying the essence of Chinese and British culture had sparked a fantastic “chemical reaction” into the thinking and lifestyles of both nationalities through people-to-people exchanges.

“Britain is the birth place of modern culture and sports. President Xi’s activities reflect this admiration,” said Cui Hongjian, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.

Xi, a well known soccer fan, visited Manchester City Football Academy with Cameron. Xi called for more exchanges and cooperation between China and Britain on soccer as well as other sports.

For Britain, tourism has been pegged as an area that will generate more revenue. Britain announced that from 2016 the validity of new visitor visas for Chinese tourists will be extended from six months to two years.

For its part, during Xi’s time in Manchester, China announced that a direct flight linking Beijing and Manchester will be opened June 2016.

By strengthening people-to-people exchanges, China-Britain relations will have a more solid social foundation, analysts say. Enditem

Editor  Xuefei Chen Axelsson

Leave a Reply