Looking at the future of China-UK ties

In a recent article, Fu Ying, vice-chairperson of China's National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, has written about the possibilities and challenges of long-term relations between China and the United Kingdom. We agree with her that China-UK issues fundamentally revolve around trust.

Indeed, trust in relationships is needed at many levels-personal (between leaders), corporate, national and international. Perhaps what she says about trust can be summarized in three components: mutual respect, shared goals, and "knowing" each other-people meeting in many different contexts and roles, as students, academics, professionals, business leaders and scientists.

Countries need to listen to one another, and try and under-stand each other’s point of view, in order to reach greater mutual understanding

We also agree with her that countries should refrain from commenting on (let alone interfering in) the internal affairs of other countries, even if they disagree with them. Imagine the state of international relations if every country criticized every other country in a verbal free-for-all.

As Fu has pointed out, countries hold different worldviews, generally rooted in their history, culture, religion, philosophy or ideology-or a mixture of all these factors or influences.

So for one country to insist its values are superior, or to try and force them on another is inappropriate. Countries need to listen to one another, and try and understand each other's point of view, in order to reach greater mutual understanding. And dialogues to build and deepen mutual understanding will benefit from being institutionalized and recorded.

For the UK and China, the new Consortium of Country and Area Studies in Britain might be a forum acceptable to both for such dialogues.

In regard to UK-China relations, as Fu said in her article, differences "need to be dealt with through communication and exchange" rather than being allowed to undermine the foundation and bonds of the bilateral ties.

China recognizes and supports what Siddharth Chatterjee, UN resident coordinator in China, referred to as the "area studies" at the inauguration of the Consortium of Country and Area Studies in Beijing in April. Chatterjee spoke of "creating a solid foundation for inclusive global governance (which) rests upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of all humanity", and commended the network of scholars from 181 countries, in 100 languages, who are supporting this initiative.

Liberty, equality and fraternity have become part of everyday political discourse ever since the French Revolution. But since liberty, equality and fraternity are deeply connected with one another, even if one of the concepts, say, fraternity, is undermined, the understanding of key values and institutions such as human rights, families, companies and political engagement could be distorted.

True, China and the UK have historically leaned toward different corners of the ideological triangle of liberty, equality and fraternity, but both desire to peacefully coexist with one another and support the need for dialogue and diversity among cultures and languages. As such, both could use the principles of peaceful coexistence and dialogue to redefine the new world order.

For countries, including China and the UK, to neglect this opportunity for peace and stability in international relations risks condemning large parts of humankind to continuing risks of starvation, pandemics, wars, and destruction of the environment on which we all depend for life.

We look forward to close ties between China and the UK as they cooperate and promote together the search for freedom, justice and community, as well as closer relationships and interdependence among the international community, enhancing prospects for world peace.

Alan Barrell is a founding partner and chairman of Cambridge Learning Gateway, and has worked extensively in student and academic education in China, and on UK-China technology transfer; and Michael Schluter is the president and CEO of Relational Peacebuilding Initiatives, and has authored two books to be published later this year: Is Corporate Capitalism the Best We've Got to Offer? and No Other Way to Peace in Korea? A Mutual and Practical Pathway to Reunification.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.