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Xi Jinping's UK state visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Britain is a pragmatic step to building a new world order

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 2015, 2:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 October, 2015, 10:15am

The lavish ceremonial protocol for President Xi Jinping's state visit to Britain next week may be symbolic testament to China's rise. But the substance of political and economic talks will better reflect China's claim to a leading role in world affairs and its inexorable pressure for a new world order. Britain is laying out the red carpet, from airport to Buckingham Palace. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan , will ride in a royal carriage and be guests of at the palace. In one of the ceremonial events sure to be closely watched for nuances of power and diplomacy, Xi will address the British Parliament.

Pomp and ceremony aside, however, the substance of talks between the Chinese president and his team and British officials will truly reflect warming ties, despite past differences over Hong Kong and human rights - a marked contrast with Xi's recent visit to the United States. There, contentious issues such as cyberespionage and territorial tensions in the South China Sea defined wary relations.

Talks are expected about significant deals for China to invest in a nuclear power station, in projects to rejuvenate the economy of northern England, such as a high-speed railway, and the choice of London as the first overseas financial centre in which to issue sovereign debt in the Chinese currency.

London, anxious to capitalise on China's rise to consolidate its place as a world financial centre after the debacle of the global financial crisis, wants to be the focus and gateway for Chinese trade and investment in Europe. Thus Britain is trying to foster a kind of partnership that has eluded China in its relations with the US - a new economic superpower relationship.

This is a pragmatic way for China to build relations with other countries as they come to terms with Beijing's pursuit of a new world order that better reflects its increased economic power, a goal amplified in remarks by Xi at a Politburo meeting this week that discussed global issues.

Xi is reported as having said the time had come to reform the "unjust and improper" arrangements in the global governance system to allow a greater say for emerging economies and developing countries.

Analysts say this reflects his ambitions for China's role on the international stage, including parity with the US, under a new geopolitical environment, and follows similar remarks during his US visit and in his speech to the UN.