British Prime Minister Theresa May wore the same red jacket that she wore to meet US President Donald Trump on her first day in China meeting Premier Li Keqiang. Following the meeting, they signed 12 cooperative agreements, including a Standard Chartered deal worth £1.12 billion, with China Development Bank to fund corporate finance projects that will underwrite the infrastructure and utilities projects required for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.
President Xi Jinping would like to see UK and China enhance cooperation and exchange with the G20, UN and WTO to address global challenges. May said, “Britain shares similar views with China on many global issues and values China’s role in international affairs.” Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, believes that UK has a growing need to broaden co-operation with China, post Brexit. At some point during the visit it seemed as if May and Liam Fox were talking to Brussels all the way from Beijing. The Global Times even suggested May might want to use the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as a bargaining chip.
Chinese investment in Britain more than doubled in 2017. The “Golden Era” of golden UK-China relations was the main headline in Chinese media, while the headlines in the UK were all about a post Brexit trade deal. “Auntie May”, as the Chinese fondly call the British PM, took a 50-strong business delegation to Beijing, including Dev Sanyal from BP and the biotech company Stream Bio. The life science sector—including pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biologics—features heavily in UK’s industrial strategy. As China has a large and ageing population this sector has a huge demand. Also present were HSBC and Standard Chartered banks, the foreign exchange trading business R5FX, British engineering companies Ove Arup and Mott Macdonald, energy and waste management company NPL Group, Jaguar Land Rover, Tevva Motors, McLaren and Norton Motorcycles and Aston Martin, who have a new flagship showroom and dealership in Wuhan, Universities UK, Astra Zeneca. During the visit, the Scotch Whisky Association renewed their Scotch Whisky trademark until 2028, thereby protecting it from locally produced copies. Very popular with the Chinese was the CEO of nutritional drink manufacturer Nutricare, who make infant formula and complete meal replacements for the elderly. He brought some products as gifts that were a source of entertainment on Weibo.
The PM renewed her commitment to a joint UK-China effort in the fight against the illegal ivory trade and to tackle poaching, confirming the fourth International Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in London in October.
The PM and President discussed North Korea and their shared determination to bring to an end DPRK’s illegal nuclear activity, agreeing denuclearisation was the objective, no mention was made of the US.