AIIB ushers in 'golden decade' for China, Britain

2015-10-18 11:27Xinhua Editor: Qian Ruisha

At the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Britain from Oct. 19 to Oct.23, the first such visit by a Chinese president in a decade.

The visit will raise bilateral ties to a whole new level and usher in a new "golden decade," strengthened by Britain's active involvement in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a China-advocated multilateral development institution tasked with financing infrastructure construction in Asia.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, during his China visit last month, promised that Britain will work with China to make AIIB a professional, responsible, transparent and effective financing platform.

"We want a golden relationship with China that will help foster a golden decade for this country. It is an opportunity that the UK can't afford to miss," according to an opinion piece by Osborne and Jim O'Neill, commercial secretary to the Treasury, in The Guardian. "Simply put, we want to make the UK China's best partner in the West."

Britain announced its intention to join the AIIB in mid-March. It was the bank's first Western founding member.

"Britain's positive attitude toward the AIIB was an exemplary move for opening a new chapter of golden relationship between the two countries," said Feng Zhongping, deputy head of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Britain led the way for other Western countries to join the AIIB. The institution can gain invaluable experience from Britain's expertise in the financial sector, Feng said.

As an international financial hub, Britain has a lot to share with China. Meanwhile, the City of London has sought to become a key Western hub for Chinese-yuan trade since 2012, offering the country an additional edge in AIIB participation.

Cui Hongjian, head of the European division under the China Institute of International Studies, concurred with Feng, "cooperation in the AIIB will help raise mutual trust."

The two countries can build on AIIB cooperation to seek closer relations in all aspects.

China and Britain entered into a "comprehensive strategic partnership" in 2004. In the past decade, huge improvements have been made in political, economic and people-to-people exchanges.

To enhance political trust, the two countries completed mechanisms for bilateral exchange, including the annual meeting between the Chinese premier and British prime minister; high-level cultural exchange mechanism; and the China-Britain strategic dialogue.

Economic and trade ties have also expanded, with annual trade surging from about 20 billion U.S. dollars in 2004 to more than 80 billion dollars in 2014.

Now, as the comprehensive strategic partnership enters its second decade, both sides are looking toward a bright future.

Britain hopes that a stronger relationship with China will ensure its prosperity, said Feng.

Since the European debt crisis, Britain has begun seeking cooperation opportunities outside Europe that are more stable and reliable. China is an ideal choice as sound economic fundamentals remain despite a slowing trend in recent years.

China's economy expanded by an average annual rate of 8 percent from 2011 to 2014, before falling to 7 percent in the first half of this year. Britain, on the other hand, posted annual growth of less than 3 percent in the same period.

"Undoubtedly, Britain wants to grow alongside a healthily growing economy," said Cui.

During Xi's visit, he is scheduled to deliver an important speech in London, where he will expound China's domestic and foreign policies and chart the future course for economic and trade cooperation.

The two sides are looking to explore new areas that will bring mutual benefits, according to Feng.

Britain is China's second largest trading partner within the European Union, while China is Britain's fourth-largest trading partner.

Last year, transportation equipment and precious metal accounted for more than 50 percent of British exports to China, while labor-intensive products, such as textiles toys and furniture, were featured heavily in Britain's import catalog from China.

Britain has opened its gates wide for Chinese investment, which witnessed an annual growth rate of 85 percent in the previous five years. It has become China's top investment destination within Europe.

In the plan to transform the north of England into an economic powerhouse, Britain needs Chinese investment to revitalize its northern industrial cities such as Manchester and Liverpool.

China's foreign ministry has said the visit will enhance economic and trade cooperation, with the signing of inter-government agreements and cooperation projects between companies.

Looking ahead, Xi's visit is going to lay a solid foundation for the golden decade ahead, Feng said.


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