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James Cleverly and Wang Yi meet at the UN. Photo: Youtube

Britain and China agree to keep talking as Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets new British counterpart James Cleverly

  • Wang told his British counterpart that ‘mutual respect’ was key to the relationship and the two sides should avoid confrontation
  • Although Cleverly stressed the importance of dialogue, he expressed concern over Taiwan in the meeting at the UN in New York
China and Britain agreed to “keep dialogue open” as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his new British counterpart James Cleverly on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Wang emphasised that China and the UK should avoid conflict and confrontation and focus on mutually beneficial cooperation.

“A sound China-Britain relationship is based upon mutual respect, with objective understanding as the prerequisite, and proper handling of differences as the key,” Wang said, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua.

UK-China relations unlikely to improve under new PM Liz Truss

Cleverly, appointed to the role earlier this month, set out the importance of constructive engagement with China as a fellow permanent member of the UN Security Council on key issues including security, climate change and global health, according to a British government statement.

He also stressed the importance of maintaining channels to discuss issues that both sides do not agree on.

Cleverly also expressed appreciation for Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan’s attendance at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, and the message of condolence from President Xi Jinping.

Wang urged the UK to adhere to the “one-China” policy and voice clear opposition to Taiwanese independence, while Cleverly said Britain’s position on the island remains unchanged.


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Cleverly also expressed concern over the current tensions in the Taiwan Strait in the statement issued by Britain. This line was not included in the Chinese readout.

Wang and Cleverly’s meeting on Tuesday came as Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss condemned China’s “provocations” over Taiwan in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the same day.

Truss, who took a tough rhetorical stance towards China as foreign secretary, also raised concerns about the country’s “growing assertiveness” when meeting US President Joe Biden on Wednesday.


Britain and China have clashed on several issues in recent years, including human rights and democracy.

Shi Zhiqin, a Tsinghua University professor specialising in China-Europe relations, said that for Britain and China to “work together in the same direction”, the UK has to show respect and not interfere with China’s internal affairs.

British defence chief warns China not to ‘transgress’ international rules

“There should be more pragmatic cooperation and less finger-pointing, especially on the human rights issues of Hong Kong and Xinjiang,” he said.


He said Truss should not be concerned about China’s “growing assertiveness”, adding that Beijing always valued “win-win” relations with other countries and opposed hegemony.

“Brexit has made the UK lose an important platform for making an impact on the global stage,” Shi said.

“Further strengthening the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US is an instinctive reaction in British foreign policy. However, from the perspective of the history of their relationship, excessive pursuit of [working closely] with the US on major issues may not be in its own interest”.

Last year, Britain joined the US and Australia in the Aukus deal, helping Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines to counter China’s military presence in the region.
Brittain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss has taken a tough rhetorical stance towards China. Photo: AP

China has condemned the deal as a threat to regional stability and security and is unnerved by Britain’s efforts to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific – an approach that some observers believe is intended to follow the US by becoming a “rule maker” in the region.


Wang Yiwei, a Renmin University professor specialising in European studies, said the UK does not necessarily need to rely on the US to be a rule maker and regain its prominence in the world.

“The possibility for the UK to influence the world through the US is dropping. America’s need for it is declining, as the US is returning to the Indo-Pacific to counter China, but may not necessarily need to count on the UK on this issue,” he said.

Wang said that Britain “felt a sense of crisis” as a result but “it needs China” if it wants to boost its flagging economy.

China was Britain’s third largest trade partner in the four quarters to the end of the first quarter of the year. according to the British Department for International Trade. Total trade amounted to £93.4 billion (US$105.8 billion), or 6.9 per cent.