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China hopes the UK will stay in the EU

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

03-01-2016 14:26 BJT

By Colin Robinson, CNTV Commentator 

In just under four months, the British public will vote on whether the nation should continue its 43-year membership of the European Union. The result of the referendum will affect many countries around the world, and few non-EU nations will have greater interest in the outcome than China, one of Britain's largest trade partners. 

Though China advocates a principle of non-interference in any country's internal affairs, its foreign ministry and President Xi Jinping have made an exception for this issue, and their stance on Britain’s EU status is unambiguous: They want Britain to remain in the union.

Having secured a series of business deals worth a combined total of more than US$55 million with the UK last October and proclaimed the beginning of a "Golden Era" of bilateral ties, Xi made his feelings clear. He said, "China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU, and hopes Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties." 

And shortly after British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed a deal with the EU to keep the country in the union with a "special status" on February 19, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the terms of the agreement had been "noted" and reiterated China's position. "China has consistently supported the European integration process and would like to see Europe play an even greater role in the world," she said.

Though China's leaders have not gone into detail about their support for the UK staying in the EU, it is apparent that economic factors are particularly significant. For example, China is eager to counterbalance the US's economic power and offset the impact of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that China is not part of. With this in mind, as well as increasing its focus on positive trade relations within Asia, China has shown willingness to cooperate with the EU, with Britain acting as an important ally.

The UK's support for China in its dealings with the EU has been a major factor in the improving Sino-British ties in recent years. In particular, the UK has—under both Labour and Conservative governance—called for the EU to grant China Market Economy Status, which would mean that China's exported goods would be subject to fewer anti-dumping charges.

And more recently, Britain has also been a major advocate for a free trade pact between China and the EU. Cameron first expressed public support for an EU-China free trade deal when he visited Beijing in December 2013, stating that he would put his "full political weight behind such a deal." The issue was also on the agenda during Xi's state visit to the UK at the end of last year, when China and Britain issued a joint statement calling for the launch of a feasibility study for an "ambitious and comprehensive" agreement on a free trade pact.

But a British exit would weaken the economic and political strength of the EU, which is already divided on several issues, particularly the ongoing migrant crisis. And a "Brexit" would also mean that China would lose its closest and most powerful ally's ability to influence the organization on trade and economic issues.

As well as being China's biggest economic ally within the union, Britain is also the first EU member to agree a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with China, which encompasses political cooperation as well as developing economic ties. And just this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China aims to play a more active role in resolving international political issues. Given support from the UK, China—an emerging major power with growing global responsibility—may be able to better articulate its stances and more easily cooperate with the EU and its members on international issues such as climate change and terrorism.

With China building such a strong relationship with the UK—its closest partner in the EU—its leaders will keep a keen eye on the results of the UK referendum on June 23, hoping that the British public will vote to stay in the organization.

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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