Li's visit to help clear obstacles in China-Britain ties

Updated: 2014-06-16 17:17


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BEIJING - On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang began his first visit to Britain since he took office in March last year, a visit that is expected to enhance cooperation and mend fault lines in the two countries' relations.

Li's visit to help clear obstacles in China-Britain ties
The visit, the first by a Chinese premier in three years, is of particular significance. It indicates the two countries have managed to tide over difficulties and come out stronger.

China-Britain relations took a nosedive in May 2012 when British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted on meeting the Dalai Lama despite Beijing's objections.

It wasn't until more than a year and a half later that the icy China-Britain relationship begin to thaw when Cameron visited China in late 2013.

Tension rose again, however, in April when a scheduled human rights dialogue between China and Britain was called off because of a British government report which made biased and irresponsible remarks to blemish China's human rights record.

In a signed article carried by The Times newspaper, Li said he hopes to show Britons the "real China" and "change misperceptions and ease misgivings" about China during the trip, which includes meetings with Cameron and Queen Elizabeth II, a banquet with business representatives and a speech to British think tanks.

The premier's itinerary will "cement China-Britain political trust, enhance cultural exchanges and cooperation in nuclear power, high-speed rail, finance and high technology, and bring vitality and new content to the bilateral partnership," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao said at a press briefing last week.

Despite twists and turns, China-Britain cooperation has made substantial progress.

The two countries have set up various high-profile exchange mechanisms in recent years including prime ministers' annual meeting, economic, financial and strategic dialogues and a mechanism for high-level cultural exchanges.

Economic and trade cooperation between the two global heavyweights has always been a stabilizer in bilateral ties.

Britain is China's third-largest trading partner in the European Union, the second-largest investment source as well as a major destination for China's overseas investment.

Annual two-way trade surged from 20 billion US dollars a decade ago to 70 billion dollars last year. And China's investment in Britain has amounted to 13 billion dollars over the past two years alone, surpassing the total of the previous 30 years.

Britain and China's economies are highly complementary and they enjoy a sound cooperative foundation.

China, with well-developed manufacturing experiences, and Britain, which boasts highly developed finance and service sectors and advanced technology, have huge potential in cooperation.

Li's visit, with boosting business cooperation as one of its main focuses, is timed for the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Britain comprehensive strategic partnership.

The visit is expected to result in the signing of more than 40 agreements between the governments and businesses covering a wide range of sectors including energy, investment, culture, education, high technology and finance. The total value of the deals could reach 30 billion US dollars.

To keep bilateral relations forging ahead and shun setbacks, it would be helpful for the two countries to facilitate contact and communication and properly mend fault lines to remove any possible obstacles in the development of bilateral ties.