International ties

Where will China-Britain relations go?

By Xie Dehao (
Updated: 2010-05-14 13:49
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As Tory leader David Cameron entered 10 Downing Street on May 11, Britain's first coalition government under parliament since 1974 was finally formed.

We had some political skirmishes between China and UK during Gordon Brown's term. In addition to disagreements over human rights and Darfur, the two sides traded barbs over emission reduction and tariff barriers.

How will the new government define China-Britain relations? Will it make a fresh start or continue the path of Brown's policy?

From the perspective of party policies, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats advocate open markets and free trade. What's more, the Conservatives maintain that the UK should be more independent of the EU. So it can be anticipated that there will be less bickering and frictions between Britain and China on economic and trade issues.

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Besides, Labor's policies are easily affected by the trade unions, who have complained that the "dumping" of Chinese products has squeezed the survival of British industry and pushed the government to implement tariff barriers on China. In contrast, the new coalition cabinet, which is supported by the upper class, business and intellectuals, will be more likely to have harmonious and close economic and trade exchanges with China.

Moreover, compared to Labor, Conservatives are less enthusiastic about promoting energy conservation and emission reduction. It will consider more the UK's own interests, rather than establishing a "united front" inside the EU.

And Conservatives are traditionally more pragmatic on human rights issue, and it can be expected that the new cabinet will not clash with China over it. On the other hand, as the Conservative Party attaches more importance to traditional Anglo-American relations, its foreign policy may be pinned down by the United States. It is likely to follow the US position to increase pressure on China on the Iranian nuclear issue and the RMB exchange rate.