The relationship Great Britain has with China is filled with complexity. As we head into 2014 - should Britain cosy up or stand up to China?
This year, Prime Minister David Cameron led Britain’s biggest trade mission to date to China marking the end of an eighteen month period where Cameron had been in China’s diplomatic deep freeze.
Relations between Britain and China have been strained since Cameron met the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama in 2012.
Where does the relationship go now that relations have in effect been re-set?
Cameron with the assistance of over 100 of Britain’s top executives signed trade agreements and deals with China worth over £5 billion pounds and with the potential to create in excess of 1,000 new jobs.
Cameron also signalled to the Chinese that Britain was open for their business and that he would ‘tear down the ‘Bamboo Curtain’ between the EU and China and push for a free trade pact.
China in return indicated a strong interest in investing in our next generation of nuclear power stations and the new proposed HS2 rail link. Many economic commentators predict that this could just be the tip of a very large iceberg and that Britain could stand to make billions out of future trade with China, but at what cost?
Some critics will accuse Cameron of putting Britain’s economic interests above human rights on his recent trip where the latter was barely mentioned publicly. That may also be very true, but Cameron has a job to do and our economy needs growth in the export markets and it is argued that we need only a 1 to 1.5% increase in the share of the Chinese market and our entire trade deficit could be wiped out. This is a very tempting target to aim for.
China in many ways makes a very attractive export target. China is slowly re-structuring its economy and moving away from cheap manufacturing and towards quenching the thirst of its rising middle class who demand amongst other things, financial services and western fashion, something of course, we in Britain, lead the world with. So the future is bright?
To some, Cameron is too cosy with China. China has a dreadful historic and current human rights record. It is argued that China carries out cyber-attacks and industrial espionage on a huge scale with its rip off economy all too willing to ignore the patents and trademarks of leading western companies.
China is seen as a regional and territorial bully soon to turn its attentions on nations in the Asian-Pacific that are friendly to and with Britain.
What will be the response?
It's a difficult one to call. We will either see Britain going into 2014 with a timid approach whilst keeping one eye on trade or challenging China's rising power and increasingly volatile and unpredictable behaviour. Not sure whether this will be public or private? It is over to you Dave, i'll certainly watch with interest.