Senior diplomat touts Cameron visit as chance to boost ties

Updated: 2013-11-26 07:23

By Zhang Chunyan in London (China Daily)

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Senior diplomat touts Cameron visit as chance to boost ties

China and Britain should seize new opportunities to further promote their relations, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom said.

"China attaches great importance to British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China, and will work with Britain to strengthen mutual trust, promote cooperation, enhance mutual understanding and inject new vitality for the healthy and stable Sino-UK relations," Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said.

Liu's remarks precede Cameron's visit to China next month. According to the Foreign Ministry's announcement on Monday, Cameron, who visited China once in 2010, will visit again from Dec 2 to 4, at Premier Li Keqiang's invitation.

Cameron's visit is of great significance for mutual ties as this will be his first to China since the new leadership took office, and also the highest level visit in more than two years, Liu said.

Cameron will bring a big delegation of many ministers and about 150 business leaders on the trip.

In China, Cameron will meet Li and other leaders. Besides Beijing, Cameron will visit cities in eastern and western parts to understand the country more comprehensively and deeply, according to Liu.

Liu said that China is broadening and deepening reform and opening-up after the Third Plenum of the 18th of Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. The Shanghai free-trade zone is the latest outcome.

Britain is also promoting reforms in finance, education, medical care and social welfare areas, he added.

"We both should make efforts to realize complementary advantages for mutual benefits in the economy and promote the development of the world free-trade system," Liu said.

China is the UK's second-largest trading partner, outside the EU. Bilateral trade is expected to hit $100 billion by 2015.

From January to October, China-UK bilateral trade continued to grow and registered an increase of 7.5 percent with a total volume of $56.1 billion.

Britain's economic strengths and its open attitude toward foreign investment have enabled fast growth of Chinese investment in there. "In the past year and a half, Chinese investments exceeded the total of the previous three decades," Liu said.

Since the beginning of this year, there has been a surge of project investments. Chinese companies have invested or are planning to invest in more than 10 big projects in Britain worth nearly $5 billion. These projects cover a wide range of areas, including infrastructure, real estate and automobile manufacturing.

The two sides are also exploring investment and cooperation opportunities in oil and gas, nuclear power and offshore wind farms, Liu added.

China and Britain also signed a currency-swap agreement worth 20 billion pounds ($32.4 billion), which will further facilitate trade and investment.

But Liu also pointed out that Britain is the world's second-largest innovative country, while British high-technology exports to China rank only fifth in the European Union.

"Sino-UK technology trade has a huge potential, as China is undergoing an economic transformation and industrial upgrading," Liu said.

The growth of Sino-UK relations also saw abundant exchanges in many fields, including education, culture, research and health.

"We stand ready to work with the British side for a more healthy and stable Sino-UK relationship on the basis of respecting each other's core interests and major concerns.," he said.

Liu's opinions were echoed by Wang Qing, a professor of marketing and innovation at Warwick Business School in the UK.

"This visit is particularly significant due to its timing," Wang said. "It comes immediately after the Third Plenum, which set out an extremely ambitious goal for China for the next 10 years under the new leadership. It is well-planned, and the Chinese side is warmed up and ready to discuss significant collaborations."

Cameron is hoping to establish a mutual-reciprocal relationship with China by enabling more British firms to access the vast and fast-growing market in China, as well as bringing more Chinese investment into the UK, Wang added.

Tian Dewen, a European studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Cameron's visit to China marked the renormalization of political relations between the two countries.

"Bilateral ties are stable and enjoy an all-weather relationship," although relations are influenced by occasional displeasure with each other, Tian said.

Jonathan Fenby, a leading analyst on China and co-founder of Trusted Sources, an independent provider of research and consulting on emerging markets, said Cameron will try to strengthen political ties in the wake of the row over the Dalai Lama's meeting with Cameron last year.

Fenby also said Cameron will set the context for a continued economic relationship with Chinese investment in the UK and opportunities for British companies in China.

Zhang Fan in Beijing contributed to this story.