Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, July 21, 2003

British PM Blair Arrives in Beijing for Official Visit

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Beijing Sunday evening for a three-day official visit to China. It is Blair's second official visit to China since he became Britain's youngest prime minister in 1997.


Blair Visits China
British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Beijing Sunday evening for a three-day official visit to China. It is Blair's second official visit to China since he became Britain's youngest prime minister in 1997.

He is the second Western European state leader, following French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, to meet with the new Chinese leadership.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui greeted Blair at the airport. Blair's entourage includes his wife Cherie Blair, senior officials and a delegation of entrepreneurs.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will hold talks with Blair, and Chinese President Hu Jintao and Central Military Commission Chairman Jiang Zemin will meet him respectively.

Blair will have an informal discussion with the teachers and students of Qinghua University and attend a ceremony inauguratinga center of clean energy research and education on the campus.Besides Beijing, Blair is scheduled to visit Shanghai and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

Blair is expected to take on the Korean Peninsula nuclear standoff, the post-war reconstruction of Iraq and India-Pakistan issues when he meets Chinese leaders, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

"Britain hopes to enhance co-ordination with China on a number of regional and international hot topics,'' said Zhao Jun, director of the ministry's Department of Western European Affairs.

Britain is one of the few Western countries with an embassy in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Blair has discussed the nuclear issue when he visited Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) after a stop in Washington.

Being two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Britain share common interests and responsibilities in a variety of international affairs, said Professor Zhao Huaipu of the Beijing-based Foreign Affairs College.

"Both (China and Britain) hope to see stability in the Korean Peninsula, Iraq and South Asia at an early date,'' Zhao Huaipu said.

Blair will focus on promoting trade ties with China, which has so far not figured very prominently on the prime minister's agenda.

There will be the exploration of the potential for economic co-operation between the two nations, said Zhao Huaipu.

Bilateral trade volume was US$11.4 billion last year, and had reached US$5 billion by May 2003, an increase of 16.3 per cent over the previous year. By the end of 2002, the UK had invested in 3,406 projects in China, with US$10.7 billion actually put into use, ranking the UK the largest investor among European Union members in China.

"I believe that Chinese leaders and Blair will discuss new philosophies and measures to boost bilateral co-operation in various fields,'' said Zhao Jun.

Blair is taking a number of British business leaders with him to China -- including executives from the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline, auto giants Rolls-Royce and oil companies Shell and BP.

They will attend a forum with Chinese entrepreneurs in Shanghai, and Blair is due to make a speech on globalization to the British Chamber of Commerce in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

"The smooth transfer of government in Hong Kong between China and the United Kingdom in July 1997 opened a new chapter in the annals of Sino-British relations,'' said Zhao Jun.

During Blair's visit to China in October 1998, the two countries issued a joint statement, formally announcing the establishment of a comprehensive China-UK partnership.

"Blair has clearly expressed his hope that Hong Kong would act as a `bridge' of bilateral relations rather than a barrier,'' Zhao Jun said, adding that recent years witnessed a good momentum for the development of a comprehensive China-UK partnership.

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