UK enterprises bet on China’s potential; eye opportunities in finance, green energy and more sectors
Sunak government may follow US in repairing ties with Beijing, strengthen engagement: experts
Published: Nov 22, 2023 08:18 PM
China UK Photo:VCG

China UK Photo:VCG

UK enterprises are betting on great dividends from China's opening-up and high-quality development, seeing more opportunities in areas including finance, green energy, vehicles and advanced manufacturing.

As strained China-US ties have shown signs of easing following a summit between the leaders of the two countries, Chinese observers said the UK may follow the US in repairing ties with China. The return of former UK prime minister David Cameron as foreign secretary sends a positive signal that the UK government is willing to foster dialogue with China to boost pragmatic cooperation, they said.

"China is the second-biggest economy in the world, accounting for 18 percent of global GDP. Its shares in global exports and global imports are also world leading. There is an opportunity and there is an appetite for strengthening the China-Europe corridor," Colin Bell, CEO of HSBC Bank and HSBC Europe, said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Tuesday.

It shows that despite short-term challenges, the Chinese market remains attractive to European businesses as they continue pursuing expansion by leveraging opportunities in the digital economy and green industry, he said.

UK-based international bank Standard Chartered announced a further investment of $300 million in China by the end of 2024 to upgrade its capabilities in a variety of areas including wealth management, retail banking and sustainability and risk management.

"We can see a lot of opportunities in China and this is why we are investing," Jose Vinals, group chairman, told media outlets recently. 

He said there are many opportunities from the reorganization of global industry and supply chains, the steady internationalization of the yuan, and the development of sustainable finance and wealth management in China.

These comments by UK enterprises came as the Chinese economy remains on a stable recovery trajectory, and multiple factors have emerged in China-UK relations. The just-concluded summit between the Chinese and US leaders sets the direction for the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations, while Cameron was unexpectedly appointed as foreign secretary on November 13.

Although Cameron's foreign policies will be a continuation of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's policies, the appointment sends a signal that the Sunak government wants to increase engagement with China and boost restoration of bilateral ties, Li Guanjie, a research fellow from the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Amid intense China-UK ties over the past several years,  the UK has imposed strict rules on Chinese investment. However, along with the easing of China-US relations, there is not much pressure on the UK to follow its ally and further tighten rules in this regard, Li said.

When Cameron served as prime minister of the UK between 2010 and 2016, China-UK relations were in a "golden era," with multiple bilateral economic and trade agreements and cooperation in sectors including finance and nuclear power being promoted, Yang Chengyu, an associate research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. He cited the example of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

Yang said the UK's economy now faces multiple challenges and there is a sense of urgency to strengthen cooperation with other countries in terms of the energy transition, artificial intelligence, the digital economy and other areas.

Cameron's predecessor James Cleverly came to China in August. Cleverly stressed that the UK is committed to strengthening communication with China and taking positive actions to resolve difficulties, enhance understanding and embrace opportunities.

China has long been one of the top trade partners of the UK. According to data released by the UK Department for Business and Trade on November 17, total bilateral trade in goods and services was 108.7 billion pounds ($136.08 billion) in the four quarters to the end of the second quarter of 2023.

The trade complementarity is that China is brilliant at manufacturing goods with high quality and competitive pricing. Britain's strength is more in the services sector - financial services, educational services, banking consultancy and legal services. So that is the nature of the complementarity, said the UK's former business and industry minister Sir Vince Cable, who served as secretary of state for business, innovation and skills from 2010 to 2015 in the coalition government led by Cameron.

"We worked together in the coalition and I hope that spirit continues," he told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, analysts said the Sunak government is unlikely return to golden-era politics amid rising geopolitical tensions as well as US-led unilateralism and the "small yard, high fence" approach.

On Monday, the UK government continued its China policy, underscored by the release of a white paper on aid. The white paper explicitly raised so-called concerns over China's growing role in international development, while alleging that the UK will resist the risks China "poses to open societies and good governments."