Meeting: Improved ties benefit both nations
Beijing underlined at high-level talks on Wednesday the urgency for China and the United Kingdom to show mutual respect, jointly tackle weather global challenges and spur two-way trade and investment.
Vice-President Han Zheng and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met separately in Beijing with visiting UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly.
Cleverly's official visit to China on Wednesday was the first by an incumbent UK foreign secretary to the country in five years.
Observers noted that keywords such as "global" and "communication" demonstrated the common ground shared by both sides at the meeting, reflecting goodwill expressed by both sides to repair their strained ties.
Vice-President Han is no stranger to the British political community, as he attended the coronation ceremony of King Charles III and related activities as President Xi Jinping's special representative in May.
Speaking to Cleverly, he noted that China and the UK have had ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations for more than half a century and "have achieved positive results in practical cooperation in various fields".
He underlined the two nations' shared identities: permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and major global economies.
In the face of risks and challenges in the current international situation, China and the UK "should uphold the spirit of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, take care of each other's core interests and major concerns, maintain communication in international and regional affairs, and jointly promote world peace and development".
China has long been among the UK's largest export markets. Last year, China was the UK's second-largest trading partner in goods imports and its fifth-largest in goods exports, according to the UK Office for National Statistics.
This year, the UK is the Guest Country of Honor for the 2023 China International Fair for Trade in Services, which is scheduled to open this weekend in Beijing.
During the meeting, Han also noted that economic and trade cooperation is the basis for the sound and stable development of China-UK relations.
He called on the two governments to "create an enabling business environment for enterprises and actively explore new growth points for pragmatic cooperation".
Cleverly said that China is a key power with global influence and is increasingly playing an important role in international governance.
The UK appreciates China's important contribution to the world economy and poverty reduction, and is willing to strengthen high-level exchanges and strategic communication with China to build consensus and deepen cooperation, he added.
In his meeting with Cleverly, Foreign Minister Wang said that the UK foreign secretary's visit reflected the importance and positive attitude he attaches to ties with China, and said the two countries "should conduct and step up regular exchanges in various fields".
London should "respect China's core interests and faithfully honor the one-China policy", he said, adding that the two countries should jointly champion world peace and stability, step up macro policy coordination and promote dialogue among cultures.
The visit was made at a time when relations have been overshadowed by London's recent policy agenda and comments regarding topics such as Xinjiang, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Ahead of his visit, Cleverly said, "No significant global problem — from climate change to pandemic prevention, from economic instability to nuclear proliferation — can be solved without China."
Many officials and policy watchers have spoken out and urged the UK not to be misled by voices advocating "decoupling" or "de-risking".
They also said it is key for London to take tangible actions to repair trust with Beijing while seeking greater benefits in trade and investment.
Rebecca Choong Wilkins, Asia government and politics correspondent for Bloomberg News, said in an article that, "It may be now or never for the UK to repair its battered relationship with the world's second-largest economy."
Tian Dewen, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, said that "China-UK cooperation is expected to play a positive role" when the UK looks to find a new way to enhance its economic autonomy and engage in extensive international cooperation.
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, told the Associated Press, "We need to engage in conversation with China, we need to have effective communication channels with China — even if we don't agree on anything — because China does matter."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Tuesday that "maintaining and growing bilateral relations serves the common interests of the peoples of both countries".
Zheng Zeguang, Chinese ambassador to the UK, noted that China and the UK have broad prospects of cooperation in areas such as the digital economy, trade and finance, and green energy.
"The two countries should adhere to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win, provide a level-playing field for each other's business communities, and break new ground in collaboration in new areas," he said.