UK official's trip expected to enhance mutual trust

By Mo Jingxi (Chinadaily.com.cn) 09:38, August 30, 2023

The United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly, will pay an official visit to China on Wednesday, the first such trip by a British foreign secretary to the country since 2018.

"We hope the UK will work with China to deepen exchanges and enhance understanding in the spirit of mutual respect, so as to promote the steady development of China-UK relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

Noting that both China and the UK are major global economies and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Wang said the two nations shoulder the joint responsibility of promoting world peace, stability and development.

To safeguard and develop a good bilateral relationship also conforms to the common interests of both the Chinese and British peoples, he added.

The China-UK relationship has suffered setbacks in recent years, marked by a lack of high-level exchanges between the two countries. In March, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak even described China as "the world's greatest challenge to security and prosperity".

Cleverly's visit is expected to help enhance the strategic mutual understanding between China and the UK through discussions on pragmatic cooperation and other issues, such as the spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis, thus thawing the frozen ties, experts said.

Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Studies and director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, said that China is a huge market that the UK needs to rely on, especially after Brexit in January 2020.

Despite tensions in bilateral ties, China has remained the UK's largest trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade reaching $103.3 billion in 2022.

"The British business community probably has contributed to facilitating this visit," professor Wang said, noting that China's digital and green transformations can provide a lot of opportunities for other countries including the UK.

There is great potential for cooperation between the two countries in service management and rule-setting, given that the UK is an established industrialized country, he said.

"For example, the UK can help to greatly improve the utilization efficiency of airports in China with better management, so that there is no need to establish too many airports to meet passengers' needs," he said.

According to professor Wang, discussions on restarting economic and financial dialogue between China and the UK are expected during Cleverly's visit.

It is also important to note that the visit comes after recent trips by senior United States officials to China, and coincides with the last day of US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's four-day visit to China. "The UK is following in the US' steps," he said.

Li Haidong, a professor of US studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, said a major reason for worsening China-UK ties is the UK blindly following the US in suppressing China's growth on the pretext of safeguarding "national security".

Li said that Washington's attempt to build small blocs with the UK and other allies that target China has also reduced the strategic trust between China and the UK.

"It will be easier for the China-UK relationship to go back to the track of stable development if the UK can have more autonomy in making its China policy," Li added.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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