Several weeks after China-UK relations suffered a setback due to the delay in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has written to Chinese President Xi Jinping expressing a desire to strengthen trade and strategic ties.
Perhaps May does not have many options at a time when other major economies are embracing trade protectionism.
On Monday Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, voiced concerns about growing US protectionism, Bloomberg reported. The message comes after US presidential candidate Donald Trump threatened in July to pull out of the WTO (if elected) if his proposal over imposing penalties on companies that moves American production offshore is blocked.
In contrast, China does not mind advancing other countries' export opportunities and supporting job creation. China's Ministry of Commerce said earlier this month that the country would adopt an open attitude toward reaching a free trade agreement with the UK, which would remove tariffs on a long list of products made in the UK.
It's possible these differing attitudes toward protectionism have played a factor in forcing May to rethink her China strategy and to consider the risks in ending the golden era of China-UK relations. In this regard, it is precisely because of the populist attitude toward protectionism that Trump encourages that has led to the UK strengthening trade ties with China.
The Guardian reported last week that the UK saw a widened trade deficit in June and that the country might face a possible economic recession. Unfortunately, matters in the UK may get worse if other nations can not restrain the rise of trade protectionism within their borders.
However, we believe future cooperative efforts between China and the UK regarding bilateral trade will not target any third party, the US included. In fairness, no one in the world is able to ignore the consumption capacity of the American people. As a major importer of consumer goods, the US is an important trade partner with both China and the UK.
However, this would not necessarily be a bad thing if cooperation between China and the UK aroused vigilance in the US, and knocked them off their current course. As the US-dominated World Bank faces bureaucracy issues, the UK announced last year its intention to join the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member.
The upcoming 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou can serve as a prime opportunity for the US to make a change. Hopefully the US can wake up and restrain the rise of trade protectionism that has been running wild in the country.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. email@example.com