UK Prime Minister Theresa May has begun a three day trade mission to China today in the hope of securing closer links with the Asian superpower.
The PM is facing domestic pressure at the moment. With calls for her resignation coming from those within her own party. However, she played down any possibility of leaving her current position upon landing in China. Whilst some within her own party question her ability to lead. In China it seems the Prime Minister is well-respected amongst the Chinese Government, State Press and its’ people. According to the BBC, news outlets have nicknamed the PM as ‘Auntie May’, a title which has been used for close allies of the Chinese Government previously. May will surely hope that she can capitalise on this perceived solidarity. With pushing for important trade deals in this ‘golden era in UK-China relations’ a priority.
The PM’s visit to China is primarily focused on discussing the future of trade between the two nations. With China is considered vital to the UK’s post-Brexit economy and international influence. Education too, is seen as a positive source of cooperation between the two nations with an education deal being agreed which will see more teachers travelling to China as part of an exchange programme. In addition, the ‘English is GREAT’ campaign designed to promote the English language in China has been launched. The PM also made short visit to the city of Wuhan, the city with the largest number of students in the world, highlighting the scale of education within China.
Protecting Hong Kong
However, the Prime Minister is also under pressure to raise China’s human rights record. Particularly issues surrounding Hong Kong. The last British governor of Hong Kong before it was handed to the Chinese in 1997 has published an open letter alongside the former Liberal Democrats leader Lord Ashdown. In it they suggest that Hong Kong’s legal autonomy must be protected regardless of economic links between the UK and mainland China.