Mrs May’s visit to China has been surrounded by a lot of media hype. Some thought that differences on BRI could spoil the trip.
I do not think this will prove to be the case. Mrs May has to walk a fine line in international dealings in the light of the changing position of the USA and the demands that creates, and the rise of a new era China.
It is not easy to handle and time will allow the USA and China to find their bilateral outcomes. In the meantime a number of nations will find the tensions difficult. But the underlying tension is between the USA and China.
While the rhetoric there may be loud, especially from the USA as they change from multi-lateral to focused foreign policy, the outcomes will depend on broad international issues. All nations need growth and the biggest source of world growth is China. The future biggest sources of world growth will continue to be China, BRI and Africa.
Some attack BRI as being contracts for Chinese companies. The first moves are heavy infrastructure projects. The best companies are Chinese, and the nearest, and the funding is Chinese. The developments will move further into Central Asia and East and South East Asia, as well as Central and Eastern Europe. This will require diversification of finance, especially green finance, and sophisticated technologies more often found in the West.
BRI will open up much more from 2020 onwards.
So we should hope that the rhetoric will be replaced by global and regional compacts.
The alternative of dividing the world is hard to imagine in practice though some may think it can be achieved.
The UK needs all the growth it can get and London needs the RMB hub.
So this report from Xinhua is worth reading slowly. President Xi does not waste words and behind what he says is serious proposals to broaden and deepen the UK China relationship.
In quieter arenas the relationship should flourish. The UK needs to deepen its understanding of China’s history and future long term thinking.
But it is not a straight line
Happy New Chinese New Year