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Brits welcome the China-UK relationship

By Colin Speakman | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2015-10-22 16:49

President Xi Jinping (L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron meet media after their talks at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, Oct. 21, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

In the prelude to President Xi's current State Visit to the UK, leading figures on both sides have spoken of a Golden Year in China-UK relations. This relationship, as an elevated strategic and economic partnership, has huge potential for the coming decade. We already see past benefits.

Colin Speakman

As a Brit, I recognize that Rover and MG cars would most probably have disappeared from the landscape had it not been acquired by the Nanjing Automotive Group in (YEAR). Then our beloved breakfast cereal, Weetabix, had an extended opportunity thanks to a Chinese company who bought them out. I believe the Brits would welcome the UK becoming China's best European friend.

We are interested in China. There are more local students studying in China's Confucius Institutes in the UK than any other country in the world. And 6,000 of our schools are offering Mandarin courses.

We are long due for an upgrade to our infrastructure be it high speed trains, airports, telecommunications or energy sectors. China has the resources to participate in this. We saw the scope with $60 billion USD of deals announced during President Xi's visit. The City of London would benefit as a leading financial center by close banking and foreign exchange cooperation as the rmb moves towards a major international currency. Realizing this, we quickly became the first country of the west to apply as a founder member of the AIIB.

What would lead China to grasp that opportunity and take in further in the coming decade is our openness to foreign investment. This was evident when we welcomed their stake in London Heathrow. Chinese smartphone maker, Huawei, purchased a big share in the Manchester airport project.

However, I'm reminded of the 1970s when Japan increased its foreign investment in the UK. We had joined what became the EU in 1973, and English is became the language of international business. That attracted Japan. To maximize China's opportunities with its new best friend, the UK needs to remain in the EU. This is something Prime Minister David Cameron will need to keep in mind after promising a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

Thus it will take a few years to see how the Golden Year can prosper into a Golden Decade between these two global focused nations.

The author is an economist and Director of China Programs at CAPA, The Global Education Network, a US/UK based organization that cooperates with Capital Normal University and East China Normal University.

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