UK should work with China for steady and sound bilateral ties: Chinese FM
Published: Nov 16, 2022 09:32 PM
China UK Photo: VCG

China UK Photo: VCG

A bilateral meeting between the UK and China on the sidelines of the G20 summit was reportedly canceled on Wednesday due to scheduling issues while the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the UK hopes to work together with China to advance the China-UK relations. 

A planned meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali, Indonesia, was canceled due to scheduling issues, Reuters reported, citing a Downing Street spokesperson. The schedule at the summit was disrupted by an emergency meeting called after a missile allegedly killed two people in Poland near its border with Ukraine, the media report said. 

When asked about the reported cancelation, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference that she has no available information to provide. "Let me stress that China is committed to promoting steady and sound development of China-UK relations with the UK on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. We hope the UK will work with China toward this goal," she said. 

The scheduled meeting would have been the first in-person interaction between British and Chinese leaders for almost five years, as there have been obstacles in bilateral relations after the British government criticized China's trade policies, limited Chinese investment and criticized matters concerning Hong Kong and Xinjiang, according to media reports. 

Ahead of the scheduled meeting, Sunak told Sky News that China "represents the single biggest straight threat to our economic security," as the British leader toughened his stance on China during the summer Tory leadership election. The prime minister's official spokesperson said the UK government was "clear-eyed" in how it approached its relationship with China, the BBC said. 

Downing Street said the prime minister would "encourage China to use its place on the global stage responsibly to resolve geopolitical tensions, ensure regional stability and play its part in tackling the devastating global impact of the war in Ukraine," the BBC reported.

Some Chinese experts believe that Sunak has a similar approach to his predecessor Liz Truss, who had both been affected by the domestic political atmosphere and the overall rising far-right populism in Europe, and that taking China as a "systematic threat" or "economic threat" also echoes the US-led recognition of China-related policies. 

Such recognition shows that on one hand, it is increasingly worried about its declining competitiveness, which led to the lack of confidence in its own strength, while being cautious about China's rising influence, and on the other hand, it shows the UK's uncertainties over the changing relationships between major powers, Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"It shows that the UK's attitude toward China is full of insecurity and wavering ambivalence," Zhao said. 

Although China-UK relations are experiencing ups and downs in political trust, experts believe there could be huge potential for bilateral economic cooperation. However, the US is exerting more influence on the UK concerning its China policy, experts said. 

"In the past, Brexit was designed to escape the EU's grip [on the UK]. But after Brexit, the UK is still declining sharply, and it is difficult for Britain to show its ability and influence to handle international affairs independently as much as Europe did. As a result, the UK is returning to the traditional British-American partnership, following the US," Zhao said. 

"The recent visit of [UK trade policy minister Greg] Hands to the Taiwan island was a violation of our bottom line in diplomacy. If China launches the punitive measures on this matter, the UK may not be able to afford it," Gao Jian, a scholar at Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"The cancelation of the meeting does not rule out the possibility of demonstrating this stance of strongly opposing to Hands' visit to Taiwan," Gao said.