|Premier Li Keqiang and British Prime Minister David Cameron chat at a signing ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. They agreed to push companies for breakthroughs in high-speed railway and nuclear power cooperation. WU ZHIYI / CHINA DAILY|
Britain vows to be China's strongest advocate in the West
British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed China's transformation as "one of the defining facts of our lifetime".
Setting no limit on Chinese investment in Britain, he vowed to champion the free trade area agreement between China and the European Union and declared that Britain will act as China's strongest advocate in the West.
"China's transformation is one of the defining facts of our lifetime. ... I see China's rise as an opportunity, not just for the people of this country but for Britain and the world," Cameron said at a news conference with Premier Li Keqiang after talks at the Great Hall of the People.
President Xi Jinping and top legislator Zhang Dejiang also met with Cameron on Monday.
Li held a welcoming banquet in Cameron's honor at the Great Hall of the People at noon, while Xi hosted a reception dinner at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
Li and Cameron witnessed the signing of 10 agreements on areas from space exploration cooperation to enhancing mutual investment.
Li told reporters they agreed to push companies for breakthroughs in high-speed railway and nuclear power cooperation.
Britain supports China having shares and even holding controlling interests in British nuclear power projects, Li said.
In October, Britain signed a $26-billion deal involving China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corporation to build Britain's first nuclear plant in a generation, along with French energy giant EDF.
They also discussed conducting offshore yuan business in London and Chinese banks opening branches in Britain.
London is trying to become the main offshore hub for trading in China's currency and bonds. According to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, London accounts for 28 percent of offshore yuan settlement transactions.
Li added that Britain agreed to increase high-tech exports to China, and the two nations will establish an innovation and research fund of 200 million pounds ($322 million).
The UK will also simplify visa procedures for Chinese tourists and business travelers.
Cameron said Britain would open a consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the country's fifth on the Chinese mainland.
China-UK ties cooled after Cameron's meeting in May 2012 with the Dalai Lama. In May this year, Cameron said in Parliament that he had "no plans" to meet with the Dalai Lama.
Li said Cameron confirmed with him on Monday that Britain respects China's territorial and sovereign integrity and core interests.
Writing in the Chinese weekly news magazine Caixin on Monday, Cameron said: "Put simply, there is no country in the Western world more open to Chinese investment, more able to meet the demands of Chinese consumers, or more willing to make the case for economic openness in the G8, the G20 and the European Union.
"And there is no country more ready to forge a dialogue of mutual respect and understanding that can address issues of concern and advance our shared interests in the world," he said.
Duncan Freeman, a senior research fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said Cameron is attempting to develop both political and economic relationships with China. However, he noted any deal on free trade between the EU and China will be a long-term goal.
Rana Mitter, a professor of modern Chinese history and politics at Oxford University, said, "British politicians on all sides of the political spectrum are realizing the importance of China's markets."
He said the UK is China's second-most important European trading partner, after Germany, but the UK has a good opportunity to catch up.
"In the next phase of China's development, which will require financial service reform and investment in human capital, Britain has major advantages."
Cameron arrived on Monday morning with the largest British trade delegation, composed of more than 100 people.
Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies of Fudan University, said the achievements in China-UK cooperation reflect a characteristic of the new Chinese leadership.
"They made it clear that China's cooperation with other countries should focus on complementary fields," Ding said.
Ding said that the support for Chinese enterprises holding shares of UK nuclear energy firms "marks a breakthrough for China in the ‘go global' process".
Tian Dewen, a European studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said London's position as an important global financial center is being challenged by Frankfurt, Germany, the financial center of the eurozone. "As a result, the UK hopes the establishment of a renminbi clearing bank in London can help maintain its existing status," Tian said.