Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 5 News List

China’s president lauds UK for ‘visionary’ openness

WESTERN ENGAGEMENT:Xi Jinping’s comments came ahead of a four-day visit to the UK, where he is expected to receive a much warmer welcome than he did in the US


Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses attendees during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly at the UN’s headquarters in New York City on Sept. 28.

Photo: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) heaped praise on the UK for what he called a “visionary and strategic choice” to strengthen commercial ties with China, as he prepared for a state visit to the UK that is expected to be richer in pomp and considerably warmer in tone than his recent trip to the US.

The trip comes at a time of global anxiety about China’s slowing growth.

Xi himself acknowledged “concerns about the Chinese economy,” but sought to allay them in a written interview with Reuters.

China itself is worried about the slowing of the broader global economy, Xi said, even while he expressed confidence that China would weather the current downturn as it reshapes its economy to be more resilient in the future.

That confidence will be on display when Xi arrives in London tonight to kick off a four-day visit that is expected to cement ties between the UK and China, including through a host of business deals.

“The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China. This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain’s own long-term interest,” Xi said in a written response to questions from reporters.

“China looks forward to engaging with the UK in a wider range, at a higher level and in greater depth,” he wrote.

Xi’s visit comes amid debate in the UK and many other Western countries over what is the best way to engage with a China that has grown more influential economically and diplomatically, but which maintains stances in areas from human rights to the South China Sea that are often at odds with those widely held in the West.

Such tensions were on display when Xi visited the US last month, with friction over issues from cybertheft to China’s maritime disputes with its neighbors at the center of discussions.

Xi’s visit to the UK, during which he and his wife, Peng Liyuan (彭麗媛), are to stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II, is expected to be much warmer, with Xi saying it could be the start of a “golden time” in bilateral relations.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne set the tone with a preparatory visit to China last month, when he courted Chinese investment into the UK and won praise from Chinese state media for having the “etiquette” not to press human rights issues.

Still, Xi’s visit, the first state visit by a Chinese president since 2005, is unlikely to be without potentially awkward moments. Newly installed UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn intends to bring up the issue of human rights when he meets Xi, his official spokesman has said.

Xi called on Britain and other countries to avoid what he characterized as bias against Chinese companies, as Beijing supports firms in fields from high-speed rail to nuclear technology in their efforts to compete for contracts overseas.

“Competition is necessary for a business to grow, and no one will give away a market to its rivals,” Xi said in comments provided in English.

“We hope that such competition is benign and market-based. There should be no swing doors or glass doors which are placed as non-economic or non-market-based barriers,” he said.

One deal expected to be inked during Xi’s visit is a plan for two state-owned Chinese utilities to invest in a £16 billion (US$25 billion) nuclear power project being built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England.

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