China’s Xi lauds Britain for ‘visionary’ openness, prods others to emulate | Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping heaped praise on Britain for what he called a “visionary and strategic choice” to strengthen commercial ties with China, as he prepared for a state visit to the United Kingdom that’s expected to be richer in pomp and considerably warmer in tone than his recent trip to the United States.

The trip comes at a time of global anxiety about China’s slowing growth. Xi himself acknowledged “concerns about the Chinese economy”, but sought to allay them in a written interview with Reuters.

China itself is worried about the slowing of the broader global economy, Xi said, even while he expressed confidence that China would weather the current downturn as it reshapes its economy to be more resilient in the future.

That confidence will be on display when Xi arrives in London on Monday evening to kick off a four-day visit that is expected to cement ties between Britain and China, including through a host of business deals.

“The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China. This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain’s own long-term interest,” Xi said in a written response to questions from Reuters.

“China looks forward to engaging with the UK in a wider range, at a higher level and in greater depth.”

WARMER WELCOME

Xi’s visit comes amid debate in Britain and many other Western countries over what is the best way to engage with a Communist-ruled China that has grown more influential economically and diplomatically, but which maintains stances in areas from human rights to the South China Sea that are often at odds with those widely held in the West.

Such tensions were on display when Xi visited the United States last month, with friction over issues from cyber theft to China’s maritime disputes with its neighbors at the center of discussions.

Xi’s visit to Britain, during which he and his wife Peng Liyuan will stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II, is expected to be much warmer, with Xi saying it could be the start of a “golden time” in bilateral relations.

Britain was the first Western nation to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) earlier this year, leading to a stampede of other countries signing up and marking an embarrassment for Washington, which had been pressing its allies not to join.

At the time, Britain said joining the AIIB at the founding stage would “create an unrivalled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together”.

British finance minister George Osborne set the tone with a preparatory visit to China last month, when he courted Chinese investment into Britain and won praise from Chinese state media for having the “etiquette” not to press human rights issues.

Still, Xi’s visit, the first state visit by a Chinese president since 2005, will not be without potentially awkward moments. Newly installed opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn intends to bring up the issue of human rights when he meets Xi, his official spokesman has said.

Source: Exclusive – China’s Xi lauds Britain for ‘visionary’ openness, prods others to emulate | Reuters

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