October 22 ,2017 , 12:22 PM
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China, Britain set sail for "golden" future after Xi's milestone visit


(Xinhua) The key word for the honeyed China-Britain relationship now is "golden" -- be it a(n) "age, decade, era, period, time or year."

Leaders, officials and media from the two countries have lavishly used this adjective to laud their close ties over the past five days when Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historic state visit to this Western power, the first in a decade by a Chinese head of state.

Other expressions the leaders employed to voice their expectations and pledge their oaths include "the best partner," "the most open country" and "the strongest supporter" -- phrases that have never been used since 1950 when Britain became the first major Western country to recognize the newly-born People's Republic of China.

As Xi wrapped up his high-profile visit Friday in this industrial and port city of Manchester in northern England, China and Britain already embarked on a new journey -- "a golden era in their relations featuring enduring, inclusive and win-win cooperation," as the two sides agreed in their joint declaration.

Xi had a very tight schedule on his Oct. 19-23 visit in London and Manchester, meeting political leaders, engaging the public, giving speeches, and visiting colleges and companies.

From Buckingham Palace to Westminster, from Downing Street to Chequers Court, from the City of London to Manchester City Football Club, and from grand royal welcome hosted by Queen Elizabeth II to casual beer drinking at a countryside bar with Prime Minister David Cameron, the Chinese president has always been a focus of international media.

Hailed by the Queen as "a milestone," Xi's visit lifted bilateral ties to "a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century."

During the talks between Xi and Cameron, the two sides pledged to further enhance political trust, expand bilateral investment and trade, and increase people-to-people exchanges.

Both sides also vowed to cooperate on each other's major initiatives -- China's Belt and Road Initiative and Britain's National Infrastructure Plan and Northern Powerhouse.

"I think that the declaration (on building "a global comprehensive strategic partnership for the 21st century") shows a recognition from the UK that different countries have different political and economic systems but a new Cold War-style division is not desirable," said Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo, an international relations and international political economy expert at King's College London.

"Western countries seem to be fully aware of these differences and want mutually beneficial cooperation rather than old-fashioned confrontation," he said.

A huge number of commercial deals signed during the visit are expected to help secure the upgraded relationship, as Britain has been trying to woo investment from the world's second largest economy.

Centering on investment, infrastructure and innovation, those deals totalled almost 40 billion pounds (some 62 billion U.S. dollars), including a landmark agreement on building the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in southwest England that will create an estimated 25,000 jobs and power around 6 million homes.

"We have seen a great trip," said Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club, an independent British business network committed to promoting links with China.

"The atmosphere was excellent and the business was good. Most of all one had the feeling that Chinese and British enjoyed being together. It was much more than just business," he told Xinhua.

Indeed, only a few national leaders have had the honor of meeting so many British royals in one day. A grand ceremonial welcome was hosted by the Queen on the first full day of Xi's "super" state visit, with the red carpet rolled out, a 103-gun salute fired and a state carriage procession staged.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan stayed at Buckingham Palace in London as the guests of the Queen, who also gave a private lunch and a formal state banquet for the couple with the attendance of senior members of the royal family.

The president was accompanied by senior royal members -- including Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince William -- on different occasions on his visit.

Cameron and his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne even joined Xi on the Manchester trip.

Cameron also treated Xi with a very British night at a countryside bar with fish & chips and two pints of Greene King IPA, before inviting the Chinese couple to join him and his wife Samantha at Chequers Court -- the prime minister's countryside house retreat -- for informal dinner together.

"Our relationship goes beyond trade and investment," Cameron told reporters during Xi's visit, noting China and Britain are global powers with "shared interests" in a stable and modern world.

His remarks were echoed by the Chinese leader.

"It is fair to say that China and Britain are increasingly interdependent and becoming a community of shared interests," Xi said while addressing both Houses of British Parliament.

A few "first" facts showcase their growing relationship: Britain is the first European Union (EU) member to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, the first Western country to issue RMB sovereign bonds and the first major Western country to apply full membership of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It is also a leading offshore RMB trading center after Hong Kong.

In another speech delivered at Guildhall in the City of London, the president highlighted the development of friendly relations between China and Britain, citing a long British name list ranging from William Shakespeare to James Bond and David Beckham.

He specifically elaborated on Shakespeare's influence on him by offering a rare glimpse of his hard youth time as a farmer in the poor northwestern Chinese countryside when he was captivated by Shakespeare's works.

"Standing on the barren loess land of Shaanxi as a young man, I often pondered the question of 'to be or not to be,'" he told the British audience quoting the maestro.

"Eventually I made up my mind that I shall dedicate myself to serving my country and my people," said Xi, the helmsman of the world's most populous country and second largest economy.

Looking back at history, China and Britain have gone through twists and turns over the past two centuries, as shown by the two Opium Wars, the Hong Kong handover, human rights issue and Cameron's controversial meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012.

But again, quoting Shakespeare's famous line "What's past is prologue," Xi opened up a new chapter in ties for the two powers in the East and West.

"I think trust and respect are very important to the bilateral relations. I do a lot of business with China, and I know China. You can cooperate with each other when you trust each other," Simon Bevan, partner and head of China Britain Services at Grant Thornton UK LLP, told Xinhua.

The Chinese president also used the Guildhall speech to explain to the Western public why China has chosen a socialist path and reassure the world that the fast-growing and peace-loving country will always pursue peaceful development and never seek hegemony.

"It is clear that as China has risen. It has become a more active and influential player in international affairs, and this is natural development which should be welcomed," said Dr. Tim Summers, senior consulting fellow at the British think-tank Chatham House.

"Chinese approaches have evolved gradually, which should allow greater scope for other countries to respond," he said. 

Friday, Oct 30, 2015 12:28 pm

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