CHINA’S PRESIDENT will make a state visit to the UK in October – the first by a Chinese leader in 10 years. The Duke of Cambridge personally handed Xi Junping the Queen’s invitation to visit Britain – known as a manu regia – when he travelled to Beijing in March. The couple will stay at Buckingham Palace. Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, made a state visit to Britain in 2005.
In the space of a mere 10 years, China has changed dramatically. Its economy is now over three times what it was when Hu Jintao visited. While the UK and most other developed countries suffered during the great financial crisis from 2008, China forged ahead.
In his Chinese New Year message, UK Prime Minister David Cameron referred to 2015 as the “Golden Year,” adding that he envisioned a “golden time” for China-UK relations over the next five years. This depiction has become the consensus between Chinese and UK leaders.
Shortly after the Conservatives formed a new Government in May, David Cameron telephoned Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the two leaders agreed to work together to elevate China-UK relations to a new level. Close ties are in the process of being formed between the new Conservative Government and the Chinese Government, enhancing progress in trade, economic and financial cooperation.
China is now the UK’s fourth largest trading partner and the UK is China’s second largest trading partner in the EU. Furthermore, the UK is currently the number one investment destination for Chinese companies in Europe, receiving US$5.1 billion in 2014. And the UK was among the first European economies to embrace the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank earlier this year. As Chancellor George Osborne said: this represented “an unrivalled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together.”
During his trip to Beijing, Prince William also launched the first ever UK-China Year of Culture Exchange, a showcase of innovative UK culture in China and of Chinese culture in the UK. For China, it is the first Chinese state-level cultural festival to be held in a Western European country.
In short, 2015 is a big year for China-UK relations. The state visit will provide a platform for the UK and China to develop a strategic framework for dealing with the opportunities and challenges facing both countries in a world where power is shifting, but economic uncertainty remains. Diplomat magazine has worked closely with the Chinese Embassy in London to create this special report ahead of the visit, with contributions from the Ambassador himself, the Conservative Friends of the Chinese, the China-Britain Business Council, the 48 Group Club, Chatham House, HSBC, Bank of China London Branch, Asia House, Shakespeare’s Globe and Imperial College London. We hope you enjoy it.
As always, Diplomat reviews the Credentials of new heads of mission to the Court of St James’s, this month meeting with the Ambassadors of Costa Rica, Malawi and the Slovak Republic, along with the High Commissioner for Kenya.
In the lifestyle section, Diplomat enjoys a stay at Art Deco masterpiece The Beaumont, and reports on Conrad St James’s extensive events space options. Readers with a taste for culture will find valuable advice in our book and arts reviews, including information on the Giacometti exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery to mark the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death, and also paintings on show by the Danish Ambassador’s wife, Susanne Frounais Grube.