Chinese elite wary of political consequences of Brexit

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/20 23:58:01

With only two days to go before the UK makes its final decision over whether to stay in or leave the European Union (EU) on Thursday, the referendum has failed to attract much attention in China, even though it is the most heated topic among European and US media.

As of press time, the hashtag "Brexit" only attracted 2.72 million views on Sina Weibo, while "the US election" gained 270 million views. In opinion polls carried out by the Global Times website, a thread about a potential Brexit only garnered less than 1,300 votes while over 4,000 Chinese took part in an opinion poll on Sino-US relations.

Chinese ordinary people either do not fully understand the significance of Britain quitting the EU, or don't care to understand it. They figure that Brexit has nothing to do with them, which mirrors that compared with the US, the influence of Britain and the EU on China is declining.

Among the Chinese netizens who voted over their views about Brexit, 72 percent supported the Leave campaign. This can be explained as a reaction over their dissatisfaction toward Brussels for the latter's protectionist measures against Beijing and its denial of granting China market economy status.

Nevertheless, given the close trade ties between China and the UK as well as the EU, there are also concerns voiced by Chinese scholars over the possible economic impact that Brexit might bring to us. For instance, will Brexit trigger an earthquake in the global financial market? Will it wipe away Britain's advantage of being a gateway into European market?

The EU is the biggest trading partner of China, while the UK is the one with the highest degree of free trade in the block and it has backed China's market economy status. London is an important hub of the internationalization of the yuan. A Brexit will undoubtedly cast a shadow on the trade relationship between China and the EU.

In the meantime, Chinese elites are more anxious over political consequences.  London breaking up with the EU will inevitably accelerate the latter's disintegration, European political civilization might face a breakdown, which will strike a heavy blow to both Britain and the EU's global status as well as to their international influence.

A multipolar world requires more powers, which are independent of the US, to participate in international governance. The EU is supposed to be one of them.

But the leverage of a divided Europe is bound to be limited. That's why China wishes to see a united and strong EU, which is able to regain its former glory and influence in the days to come, rather than a fragile one weakened by Brexit.

Posted in: Observer

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