China’s leader Xi Jinping concluded his four-day official visit to the United Kingdom with a call to the British government to keep the country in the European Union. The trip mostly focused on trade talks and broader mutual relations between the two countries. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced deals worth around 54 billion euros as well as the launch of the first yuan-denominated bond in London.
The Chinese foreign ministry announced during the stay that China hoped that the UK would remain a EU member. “China hopes Britain will be an important member country of the European Union to be a more positive and constructive element to deepen the development of Sino-European relations,” the ministry said in an official statement. The question of Britain’s EU membership is still disputable as Prime Minister Cameron promised his electorate to organize a referendum on the country’s EU membership by 2017 under the pressure of the anti-EU UK Independence Party as well as eurosceptics from his own Conservative Party.
Xi’s visit to the UK also included a tour of the National Football Museum and other football-related activities. Xi, who is allegedly a Manchester United fan, watched a training match and met players who helped to build and shape Manchester’s footballing history. However, the stay has also proven to be controversial as some campaigners feel that the government should have discussed human rights issues more. Other critics pinpointed the closure of British steelworks due to cheap Chinese steel.
Despite these obstacles, the UK generally sees itself as China’s strongest partner in the West. UK’s finance minister George Osborne commented that “a partnership is a relationship where we do things together, like build nuclear power stations, invest in modern science, regenerate cities like Manchester.” He added that “a partnership is also where you can have frank discussions about issues like the future of steelmaking or cyber security or, indeed, human rights.”