British meat exporters are reportedly looking for opportunities outside China, a development that observers said may underline business concerns over recent political tensions between China and the UK.
To a certain extent, such concerns are totally justified given the UK’s position on China’s national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and its change of mind on Huawei. Yet, despite the current setbacks in the China-UK relations, there is still potential for the two countries to move ahead on economic cooperation.
From the perspective of China, the Chinese market still needs British companies, investment and products, and it is the common wish of the business circles in both countries that their bilateral economic ties could continue to advance. Last year, China was the third-largest export market for UK goods.
Moreover, Britain has been trying to avoid getting involved in the escalating US-China standoff, drawing distinctions from some other countries such as Australia. Although the UK seems inclined toward the US ideologically, it also values its economic links with China, which is why its officials have always been cautious in maintaining their diplomatic independence by adopting a relatively mature foreign policy. We hope the British government will not confuse political issues with bilateral economic and trade relations.
As US-China relations have been sliding toward a new Cold War, whether China and the UK could maintain stability for their economic and trade ties and whether they could continue to push forward the bilateral economic cooperation will be a challenging test for both countries. Yet, no matter how difficult it may be, their economic and trade links need to move forward so as to offer more leeway for the overall China-UK relations to ease their political tensions.
In that sense, we sincerely hope that the British government could take a more pragmatic approach toward China-UK relations and send more positive signals on bilateral cooperation, especially in the area of financial cooperation.
In recent years, financial cooperation has played an increasingly important role in China-UK economic relations. Last month, Chinese authorities approved the London listing plans for China Pacific Insurance and SDIC Power under the Shanghai-London Stock Connect scheme, which aims to build links between China and the UK. If the two sides can continue to strengthen such cooperation, then it will be a very positive and critical signal for bilateral ties at this sensitive moment.
In addition, as the US Federal Reserve’s unprecedented measures have been sending shockwaves through the global financial market, sound financial cooperation between China and the UK will not only help rebuild London’s status as an international financial center, but can also protect the international financial order from more shocks.