Contrary to United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's portrayal of China as a challenge to the global order, China is instead seen as an attractive destination for investors from his country.
In the first quarter of this year, the UK's investment in China increased 680.3 percent year-on-year. Although that remarkable growth is partly attributable to the low base of the same period last year when both sides were fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, it still highlights China's special importance to the UK as investments from France, Germany, Canada and Japan in China saw an increase of 635.5 percent, 60.8 percent, 179.7 percent and 47.4 percent respectively. That further consolidates China's position as the second-largest investment destination for the UK, and China has been the second-largest investor in the UK for years.
No wonder Dominic Johnson, minister of business and trade of the UK, stressed to the media in an interview last week that the Chinese investments in the UK — infrastructure, offshore wind and clean energy, for instance — are "a vital component of the future of our economy", and the two sides are "symbiotically linked" in investment and trade.
The frosty state of Sino-UK relations, thanks to the Sunak government's blind following of Washington's China-containment strategy, goes against the grain of the close economic and trade relations between the two countries.
The total volume of trade in goods between the UK and China increased by 20.5 percent last year over 2021. That means the Chinese side still keeps its door open to UK companies and investment, and this despite the great lengths the UK has gone to in setting restrictions for Chinese companies and investments.
Sunak claimed last year when he took office that the "golden era" of Sino-UK relations was over, and he has left no stone unturned to toe Washington's line to contain China — the UK is a member and participant in almost all the parts of the anti-China framework the US has established, ranging from the AUKUS security grouping to the "Indo-Pacific" strategy. However, the UK's poor economic situation and financial instability only highlight China's irreplaceability to the UK, making Sunak's anti-China discourse a hollow show. With the European Union and other major countries in Europe considering a more pragmatic approach to their relations with China, the UK should also review its China policy.
To build a sound China-UK relationship, mutual respect is the foundation, objective understanding is a prerequisite, and proper handling of differences is the key. It has not affected and will not conflict with the development of UK-US relations. It is to be hoped that the Sunak government will discard its ideological blinkers and view China and China-UK relations from a strategic and long-term perspective so as to keep them on the right track.