Have we ‘turned a corner’ with China? No we haven’t.

The Prime Minister was hoping for a successful visit to China this week. However, as he hails ‘indispensable’ ties with China, the state media tell him what they think of Britain. It was in the editorial of China’s Global Times, which reflects the mood and opinions of the country’s leadership.  So, according to the leadership we are ‘just an old European country apt for travel and study’.  They’ve also ‘discovered that Britain is easily replaceable in China’s European foreign policy’.

The fact is David Cameron has not been forgiven for his controversial visit to the Dalai Lama last year. Following his visit, relations turned very frosty and an earlier trade delegation was cancelled by Beijing. Earlier this week we were told that Britain has ‘turned a corner’ with China suggesting all was forgiven. But it is clear this is not the case.

What is also clear is that Cameron is afraid of bringing up the issue of human rights. On his trip to Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister openly criticised the regime for their human rights abuses. However, during his visit to China there has been no mention of Tibet or the imprisonment of the Noble Peace Prize Winner, Liu Xiaboo. By mentioning these issues, Cameron could put the trip in jeopardy.  If he brings up the issue in China, the trade deals he is currently negotiating could very likely fall through.

At a press conference, reporters were not allowed to ask questions. Both Premier Li and the Prime Minister read prepared statements and left straight after. When Nick Robinson tried to ask a question he was ignored by both leaders. Did they believe the issue of human rights might be asked that could create an awkward moment? It’s certainly a possibility.

To look on a more positive note, the trip on the whole is looking rather good. According to the Prime Minister, the trip has ‘delivered almost six billion pounds worth of deals’.  There is no denying the economic impact these talks will have, but it seems that there is still some tension between the Prime Minister and China. Cameron seems to be ignoring the comments, instead pointing to positive meeting with Premier Li and President Xi Jinping.  But as Sky’s Asia correspondent has said the ‘editorial in China’s Global Times gives a clear hint about how Mr Cameron has been received in China so far’.

Ben Callaghan

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