UK breaks away from dated China mindset

Globaltimes | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2013-12-16 | 责编: Li Xiaoyu
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by Cui Hongjian

After inking billions of pounds of trade orders and being followed by tens of thousands of Weibo users, British Prime Minister David Cameron went back to his country, pleased and satisfied. Some questions that came along with his visit have been answered, but many more still linger.

Cameron's visit was not seen as likely to be an easy and agreeable one at first. He was weighed down with expectations that he needed to break the ice which had been caused by one of his political misadventures. 

Around 18 months ago, the youngest prime minister in the last two centuries insisted on meeting the Dalai Lama, which immediately led to a frosty state in China-UK relations. During this period, although trade and investment between the two countries made some progress, more opportunities were wasted. 

The pressures imposed by the UK's domestic politicians increased, because they were depressed after seeing the rest of the European Union benefiting from close political interactions with China. Thus, Cameron needed a state visit to bring the errant Sino-British relations back to the right track.

Besides, the UK wants more from a healthy Sino-British relationship. Since having decided not to become more integrated with the rest of Europe, the kingdom has had to look for more economic opportunities from external markets. Apparently, China's sustainable development is giving the UK its greatest hope. 

From 2009 to 2012, Sino-British trade increased dramatically from $39.2 billion to $63.1 billion. In the last one and a half years, Chinese investment in the UK has surpassed that of the previous 30 years, with the investment for mergers and acquisitions alone exceeding $8 billion.

More importantly, the just concluded Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee has pointed out that the Chinese financial service sector will be more open and the renminbi's international market is expected to expand. This decision supplies a dream-like opportunity for London, a finance-oriented city which is in competition with Frankfurt to be the financial center of Europe. 

As for the British economy, there are no options that are more worthwhile and promising than binding itself with China's reform and development process.

That is why Cameron, putting up with Brussels' disdain and British media's quips, vowed to propel the negotiation of the EU-China Free Trade Agreement. He even said that the UK will be "China's biggest advocate in the West." 

Chinese people might not fully trust this promise, especially when it is made by a stumbling kingdom whose influence on the whole world is on the wane. However, as long as it plays no opportunistic tricks, bilateral trade, which shares a highly complementary relationship, can generate a veritable strategic partnership.

Benefit or value - that is the question for many European nations. Cameron's choice was also made by Germany, France and even Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown. 

These countries, out of ingrained pride and prejudice, had never tried to treat China as a respectable and dignified nation which has the right to express disapproval and anger like themselves. But now they are mired in economic depression, and utilitarianism prevails in their China policies. They are condescending and compromising. But it should be noted that when European economy recovers, the "supremacy of values" will regain the upper hand. 

After the plenum, China is officially at the starting line of a new round of reform. Collaboration with Europe, one of China's most important economic partners, will undoubtedly contribute to its development in the future. In the meantime, without China's growth adding new catalysts to its economy, it is very hard for the declining continent to maintain its leading position in world economy. 

Although the end of the year is approaching, a splendid scene has just been unveiled. What will be witnessed is both sides being eager to strengthen their efforts to explore more cooperation and exchanges. 

China and Europe have built up a pivotal and extensive bilateral relationship, which values both peace and development. The recently sealed China-Europe 2020 plan has expanded their bilateral cooperation to more than 80 fields. 

Under this ambitious and promising program, as long as some European countries can break out of the stereotyped mindset which sways between the pursuit of benefit and value, Sino-EU cooperation is highly expected to be a win-win paradigm for the international community.

The author is the director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies.

Source: Globaltimes