Translation provided by Roger Sharpiro
As China moves to the centre of world stage in recent years, the fact that Sino-UK relations have entered into a golden era is a prominent feature in this process. The UK responded positively to and played a facilitating role in important Chinese initiatives such as BRI and AIIB. Can BRI serve to further boost relations between China and the UK? What impact will the up-coming triggering off of the Brexit process have on the future of such relations? How does the UK view the fact that China is playing an increasingly important role in the world? Stephen Perry, Chairman of the UK 48 Group Club, who has long been engaged in trading between China and the UK, gave an interview on these questions.
China does not want to become World Police
Reference News: China is moving closer and closer by the day to world centre stage. What does this mean to the world?
Perry: China is moving close to the centre of world stage, but this does not mean China will play the kindly of leading role that America plays. Chinese leaders talked about a human community with shared destiny at Davos, which represents China’s view. China wishes to share prosperity and benefits with the world, and to shoulder responsibilities in areas such as economy and security. China has no intention to become world police like the US.
As China approaches world centre stage, can a form of development with its own characteristics be copied by other countries in the world? I think other countries can borrow from China’s success experience in many aspects, but China knows well that different countries need different forms of development that suit the situation in their own countries and history. That is exactly the key to China’s success.
Reference News: Some say the world has now entered into a post-Western era. Do you agree?
Perry: I do not think Brexit and the Trump being elected mean the collapse of the free system of the West. In fact, these unexpected events on both sides of the Atlantic can be described as a TV reality show phenomenon. During the past few decades, people in the West have long become familiar with the concepts of Winner or Loser in TV reality shows. And in these elections that are held every few years, they vote for the loser, bringing about a dramatic reversal to upset the system. These resulted in the outcome of the voting in the UK and US. But if you look carefully, once the choice is made in the UK or US, the decision making process in reality tends to return to the more traditional. To say that Europe is plunging into chaos and the Western free system is dead are somewhat exaggerating, underestimating the cohesiveness of the economy and other forces.
Help create a Global UK
Reference New: What does the BRI mean to the world?
Perry: The BRI is China’s initiative on economic development and security. World experience tells China that securing market, resources and trade corridors by means of armed force does not last. Therefore, out of its own reality and its traditional philosophy, China came up with the concept of shared prosperity and facilitating regional economic development through BRI. I would like to stress that if BRI wants to give rise to new world economic growth, it must do it through cooperation among many. For instance, the basis of the Industrial Revolution was textile industry. Today, Africa has all the conditions to make a breakthrough with its textile industry, turning from export of raw cotton into that of finished fabric. For this China can provide equipment and technology, whilst Europe and America have the market. It takes China, Africa, Europe and America to work together. China can inject large funds into BRI projects, but it still needs the involvement and cooperation of America in high-tech areas. At least America must not object. There is larger room here for cooperation than there is difference between China and the US.
Reference New: In what areas can the UK participate in constructions under BRI?
Perry: UK is at the west end of BRI. Perhaps to China, its importance is not as great as those countries close by. But there is still plenty opportunity for the UK to look for. For example, Liverpool, a Northern port city can be developed into a sea freight transfer terminal for Chinese goods shipped into Europe, and therefore raising Liverpool’s own significance. Another example will be that the financial service industry in the UK is strong and has a long history. And the BRI does require the easy slow of trade and of funds. All along the Belt and Road there needs to be financial centres. This is where China and the UK, or China, UK and a third country can work together. This means opportunity for the UK to participate in BRI. What the UK will have to address is how its financial service can spread to outside of London, to other parts of the world. This is in line with the objective of making UK and Global UK after Brexit, as set by the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
In the minds of many UK CEO’s, China is a huge market. A manager of a multi-national automobile company comes and asks me: Where is the largest automobile market second half of this century? I said it is in the BRI regions to the west of China.
The UK should regain the spirit of Ice-Breaking
Reference News: This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of ambassadorial level diplomatic relationship between China and the UK. How do you view the Golden Era of Sino-UK relations?
Perry: The actual process of Brexit, which starts this March, will create some uncertainty to Chinese investment into the UK, especially for those investors who take the UK as a stepping stone into Europe. However, in areas such as the health industry, machine building and new and high-tech industry, the UK is still very attractive. Compared with other European countries, the UK is more open to foreign investment.
Sino-UK relations has remained in its Golden Era, since the new government came in. This will continue to be the case after Brexit. Next year the focus of the UK government will switch from Brexit to developing the economy. Then the China Opportunity will become even more important to the UK. Relations will be even stronger. China and the UK are very different, but the UK are very good at developing ties with other countries, especially when these ties help the British economy. In the 50’s of the last century, when my father told people around him they should develop trade with China, they thought he was crazy. Only decades later did people realise that he was right. To some extent relations between the UK and China still need Ice-Breakers of those years gone by. Today, when sharing the China Opportunity, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Central and mid Europe and Russia have all surpassed the UK. Now is the time for the UK government to decide: Does Britain wish to become the main economic and trading partner of China’s in Europe? Can the UK and China forge Special Relations in economic and trade? This takes political will and open-mindedness. The UK needs to re-possess the Ice-Breaking spirit. It needs Icebreakers who really understand China and China’s agenda to facilitate cooperation with China. And the best Ice-Breaking today, I think, is to develop Sino-UK cooperation through BRI.
For the Chinese news version please see here