Chinese President Xi Jinping might have a new partner at 10 Downing Street for his ambitious project to expand Communist Party economic influence overseas.
Boris Johnson vowed his government will be very “pro-China” in an interview with a Hong Kong broadcaster a day before he succeeded Theresa May as British prime minister.
“We are very enthusiastic about the Belt and Road Initiative,” Johnson said. “We are very interested in what President Xi is doing.”
Johnson has pledged to extricate the United Kingdom from the European Union by Oct. 31, but the departure could be painful for the British economy if he can’t negotiate an agreement that preserves close economic ties with the EU or a favorable parallel trade deal with the United States. The risk of a recession might drive Johnson to bargain with China, but President Trump’s administration has warned European allies to avoid such deals.
“We are very lucky because we have coming to the U.K. not only lots of goods manufactured in China, we have 155,000 Chinese students in the country, which is wonderful for us,” Johnson said in the Tuesday interview. “They make a massive contribution to Britain and to our society.”
Johnson also promised to keep Britain “the most open economy in Europe” for Chinese investments. “We have Chinese companies coming in to do Hinkley, for instance, the big nuclear power plant,” he added.
Such enthusiasm might irritate Trump’s team, to judge from the rebuke of Italy’s recent decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. “Endorsing BRI lends legitimacy to China’s predatory approach to investment and will bring no benefits to the Italian people,” the White House National Security Council tweeted in March.
The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s strategic plan to use infrastructure investments to gain influence, and even sovereignty, over key ports, railways, and airports around the world. Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned British officials in May that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei could “divide Western alliances” if the United Kingdom lets the company provide the government with sensitive communications technology.
“China attaches importance to the China-U.K. relations and hopes that the U.K. will continue to work with China to ensure the sustained, steady, and sound development of China-U.K. relations in the spirit of mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said of the new prime minister Wednesday.
Source: The Washington Examiner