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China and Britain need to identify their core interests, seek more common ground and strengthen their partnership to adapt to the changing times, Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain’s 48 Group Club, said here on Monday.
The club is an independent business network offering consultancy and other support for British companies seeking to do business with China. ‘ “The changes in the world are very substantial and if you don’t move with times you get left behind,” Perry told Xinhua in an interview.
He called the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May last week, during the latter’s official visit to China, “substantial”.
During their meeting, Xi had called for an enhanced version of the “Golden Era” of bilateral ties.
“This changing situation around the world requires both countries to take it very seriously and adapt. I think it’s also to broaden the areas of activity and interest that come along,” Perry said.
Some of the most profound changes are the United States retracting from multilateral organizations and Britain leaving the European Union. China and Britain, both major economies and permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, need to take a more open approach and deepen ties in their core interests regardless of their political and social systems, Perry said.
The challenges facing the governments, regardless of their system, are similar. Therefore Britain and China can share their experiences in these areas, he said.
“I think President Xi is talking about ‘Let us be flexible, let us move with the time, let us understand each other, let us understand each other’s development strategies, see how we can work them together,'” he said.
The two countries can enhance cooperation in finance, nuclear energy and investment, and explore cooperation in new areas such as artificial intelligence, green energy, the digital economy and sharing economy, and much more, he added.
China has very original and innovative ways of funding healthcare while in the Western economies, Britain in particular, health costs are draining the state exchequer.
Britain’s National Health Service systems, mostly funded by the state, have long been accused of being inefficient and are in danger of bankruptcy.
“In all these areas there’s a great opportunity for the two countries to cooperate, work together and understand each other’s experiences,” Perry said.
He added that the two countries need to further dovetail their development strategies. Britain needs to identify its core interests and map out its development strategy first, especially in light of Brexit.
As Britain tries to rebuild infrastructure as well as the balance between its north and south, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) offers great opportunities for enhancing connectivity and growth, he noted.
Despite concerns over the political implications and financing risks of BRI projects, the test of time will tell that it is “the transformatory concept of this century”, he said.
“China is the greatest opportunity for the United Kingdom for business, trade and investment. And with (the) BRI it is going to be five times the size,” he said.
Despite the differences between the development stages of the two countries — China is moving into the middle-income phase while Britain is fighting to hold onto high income — they can and should work together to adapt to the changing times, he said.
“So long as they are fairly scientific about the relationship and realistic about the different interests, I think it can work,” he said. Enditem (Xinhua reporter Larry Neild also contributed to this story)