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China Daily Global / 2021-03 / 11 / Page005

Sino-UK relationship has chance to rekindle

By WANG MINGJIE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-11 00:00

Environmental meetings provide fertile common ground, British scholar says

While the Sino-UK relationship was not without tests in 2020, there is a strong possibility that both countries could rekindle bilateral relations this year, especially in collaboration for a global response to climate change, a British scholar said.

"When China and the UK will host the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (COP15) and the 26th Conference of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) respectively, a rapprochement of the Sino-British relations will commence this year," said Christopher Bovis, a professor of international business law at the University of Hull.

China aims to reach its peak of carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, a commitment made by President Xi Jinping when speaking via video to the UN General Assembly in September.

Bovis said, "As China assumes a leading role and responsibility on carbon emissions reduction, I believe that China and UK cooperation on climate change could be a classic example of such international leadership for environmental protection and a potential fertile ground of rekindling their economic and investment relationships post-Brexit."

The economic relations between China and Britain, as well as the resultant trade and commerce patterns, have kept deepening.

From 2010 to 2020, China-UK trade in goods surged from $50.1 billion to $92.4 billion, according to China's embassy in London. Despite the pandemic and the contraction of international trade that followed, China-UK trade still hit a record.

However, the "Golden Era" relationship heralded by Xi when he visited the UK in 2015 has gone south as Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed the previous government's decision by banning the purchase of new Huawei 5G equipment and by removing all Huawei equipment from Britain's 5G networks by the end of 2027.

Bovis said he believes that "such action demonstrates prima facie the characteristics of a protective economy in need of rethinking its international relations, and the deterioration of relations between China and the UK over Huawei is a temporary one".

This year marks the beginning of China embarking on a new journey of implementing the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and building a modern socialist country in all aspects. The topic has been featured in discussions during the ongoing two sessions, the country's most prominent annual political event. It is also an important year for the UK as, having completed Brexit, it will enter a new stage of building a "Global Britain".

The two sessions refer to the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top political advisory body.

"The Chinese economic development strategy has provided a blueprint, which is very similar and aligns very well with the UK Industrial Strategy," Bovis said. "Both plans prioritize an overall sustainable and scientific development, accelerating development of the services sector, improving innovation in agriculture and industrial sectors and establishing a more balanced and sustainable trade."

He believes post-Brexit UK and China could strengthen the collaborations on the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China. "It links investment with the outcomes of economic recovery, especially in parts of the world that have suffered market failures, including the pandemic and the negative effects on growth," he added.

Christopher Bovis

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