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Opinion / Chris Peterson

Xi will get a bigger welcome in UK

By Chris Peterson (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2015-09-25 08:00

While president faces territorial and hacking issues in washington, london is wooing chinese investors

President Xi Jinping's visit to the United Kingdom in October may be less problematic than his current trip to the United States, if media reports in both countries are anything to go by.

True, there's no outright hostility in the extensive coverage in, for example, the New York Times, but the newspaper felt compelled to say that "the luster of Mr Xi's imperial presidency has dulled lately".

Xi will get a bigger welcome in UK

By contrast, London's media is full of optimistic news about UK Chancellor George Osborne's carefully managed week-long visit to China, packed with a huge variety of initiatives and deals, from nuclear power to a major financial boost for British schools to promote the teaching of Mandarin.

Recently, the Times and the Daily Telegraph, two of Britain's heavyweight newspapers, carried in-depth reports on the UK's soft power cultural approach. We don't send gunboats anymore, we rely on William Shakespeare in Mandarin and a huge collection of priceless objects from the British Museum. The aim behind that invasion is trade with a capital T.

It's no secret that the Chinese economic powerhouse has slowed down a little of late, Xi will get a bigger welcome in UKcausing the US Federal Reserve to hold off on a widely touted interest rate increase. The New York Times said the slowdown had somehow cast slight doubts on Xi's formula for governing China.

That hasn't deterred Osborne, who made it clear to British reporters covering his trip that he stood in solidarity with China at the Shanghai Stock Exchange, where plummeting prices were a cause for concern a couple of weeks back.

Osborne made it clear in remarks carried in the Financial Times that Britain and China would stick together, and indeed were planning to connect the Shanghai exchange with the London Stock Exchange. The Chinese economy, he says, would continue to fuel global growth.

Meanwhile in the US, the media were stressing the fact that Xi would face an uncomfortable ride from President Barack Obama on two fronts - Chinese activity in the South China Sea and cyber attacks, allegedly by China-based hackers on US companies and government institutions. That may be dealt with by a deal between China and the US not to use cyber attacks against vital infrastructure in peacetime.

Even if both sides want to make it easier to invest in each other's economy, Obama is facing strong political and popular pressure not to ease the rules.

Back in the UK, David Cameron and Osborne are determined to make Britain China's second largest trading partner after the US by 2025.

If Xi meets headwinds in the US, then in the UK he will be pushing against an open door, as the local saying here goes.

UK government ministers have taken to the airwaves to woo Chinese investors, whether it's through nuclear power, offering to allow China to be lead builder at several sites, or in the proposed high-speed rail link, known as HS2, which will link London with the north of the country, now referred to in the media as the Northern Powerhouse.

In turn, Osborne is praising the Chinese vision of Belt and Road Initiative, and wants British firms to be involved in infrastructure construction along the way, according to the Financial Times.

US media seems to reflect that country's reserve when it comes to China. Britain, on the other hand, has been dealing with China through ups and downs ever since the 18th century.

Britain's love affair with China is, it seems, being rekindled at all levels.

The author is managing editor of China Daily Europe, based in London. Contact the writer at chris@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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