• Tue
  • Sep 30, 2014
  • Updated: 1:33pm
NewsWorld
DIPLOMACY

Beijing puts Britain in its place - behind Germany and France - ahead of Li Keqiang visit

Beijing official gives his ranking of European powers, highlighting issue of managing ties with China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 10:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 5:22pm

With a date for tea with the Queen in the bag for the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, this week, Beijing decided to place Britain ever so gently in its place.

Britain now ranks behind Germany and France among the pre-eminent powers in Europe, the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming declared on the eve of the premier’s three-day visit to Britain, which starts today.

”Before I came here, we used to say when we talk about Europe: Britain, France and Germany,” Liu told reporters.

“But unfortunately many opportunities were missed in the past year or so, and we all know the reason behind it, so people now start talking about Germany, France and Britain.”

The remarks by the ambassador, who highlighted a series of missed opportunities by Britain, ranging from the failure to build a third runway at Heathrow to an overly restrictive visa regime, show the delicate challenge in managing diplomatic relations with China.

David Cameron, in common with all his immediate predecessors, believes that Britain must forge a strong political and economic relationship with a country that is on course to move ahead of the US as the world’s largest economy.

But the remarks by the ambassador show that China has little time for the usual diplomatic niceties and likes to remind European countries in general – and one with such a sensitive colonial past, in particular – just who is top dog in the 21st century.

At a dinner last year to work out how Britain could tap into the vast economic opportunities of China while holding firm to its values on human rights, Hugo Swire, the Foreign Office minister, urged caution.

But finance minister George Osborne called for a hard-headed approach, saying Britain needed to throw itself into building the strongest possible relationship with China.

Needless to say, the chancellor prevailed. Within months, the prime minister embarked on his long-delayed visit to China, declaring in the Chinese weekly news magazine Caixin: “There is no country in the western world more open to Chinese investment.”

Human rights were on the agenda during Cameron’s visit in December as they will be during Li’s visit this week. But all EU countries have devised a formula to avoid causing too much offence to the Chinese, known as a “human rights dialogue”.

Cameron will refer to this dialogue in his meeting with Li, allowing him to say human rights have been raised without discussing the issue in great detail.

Ann Clwyd, a Labour member of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, says Cameron should not be afraid to challenge the Chinese: “I suspect we don’t get the balance right when trade is an issue.

"And this government is very hot on trade. But MPs must put pressure on the prime minister to raise the controversial issues with the Chinese.”

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This article is now closed to comments

Rambo
Well, the Guardian as well as the British Government, the Queen should be able to congratulate themselves that Great Britain still comes up ahead of the US as far as visits by Chinese leaders are concerned. Since Obama resents Chinese economic success, a visit to the US by Chinese leaders will have to take place after he leaves the White House.
539f112e-ccdc-4234-bb89-52610a320968
And urban legend suggests that money can't buy everything......
How About
A good article from the Guardian.
.
Look, this is trade, and people everywhere has been doing this for millenia. If Cameron can schedule tea with Eliza with Li, they have better show their sincerity for more business. Anyone who reads more into this is being hyper-political or sanctimonious.
.
skywalker
Mr. Cameron is too much of a kissass to China, showing how desperate he and his long fallen empire are for foreign investments. People who behave like this normally get ridiculed by the other party. With being the notorious naysayer in Europe, the British have maneuvered themselves into a quite delicate position now. And China can just sit there smile...
VicSexton
Behind Germany sure, but France??
mh0908
Can you ask Her Majesty if she will give the 8 million taels of silver back to the Chinese after China lost the two Opium Wars?
anson
This is 2014. What do you really want? You certainly don't want friendly relations with Britain. The British Empire was an atrocious act of subjugation and worse on many peoples throughout the world. The British in 2014 know that. The British in the 19th century did not know that. The question is, do you want China to live prosperously and freely for a long period of time or simply to use her current economic power to seek revenge for past acts? So much of what we see now is not even for foreign consumption but merely to pander to the under-educated (through no fault of their own) populace on the mainland - to show how great the CCP are and how grateful the people should be that they have such a strong government that can do and say what it wants. Nothing lasts forever. The sun set on the British Empire, as it did the Greek, Roman and countless other European and Asian empires. China should be using its new found power to make long term friendships with other countries. Honestly, who could China rely on in a time of crisis? Russia? India? the USA? France? Vietnam? the Philippines? Japan? Australia? Malaysia? etc. Where are China's real friends, their trusted allies? Sorry I forgot - North Korea. Good luck with the power play mh0908, but remember that Britain might be a poor and insignificant nation, but they have strong friendships and strong allies.
53919dad-e488-45a8-a2e5-0bca0a320969
"The British in the 19th century did not know that.", "The sun set on the British Empire," that makes it alright to wipe out history?
norodnik
More money and lives were lost in The Great Leap Forward and The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution...most things in China that are labelled Great ain't...
TigerJ
Norodnik - the two matters are unrelated. One is an internal disaster, the other is total humiliation imposed by a foreign country due to technological differences.
The Brits still haven't come out to apologize for the outrageously unjust Opium War. They should kowtow to China everyday and beg for pardon.

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