Cameron Says China's Xi Brings $46 Billion in Deals to U.K.

The Importance of President Xi Jinping’s U.K. Visit
  • Prime Minister focuses on economic benefit of good relations
  • Xi visit to bring 3,900 jobs, as steel cuts put 5,200 at risk

David Cameron said Chinese President Xi Jinping will bring more than 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in deals and investment on his visit to Britain this week, as the prime minister defended himself against charges he was being too warm towards his visitor.

The deals will create 3,900 jobs in the U.K., in sectors including the creative industries, retail, energy, health and technology, financial services, aerospace and education, Cameron’s office said in an e-mailed statement, without giving further details.

Meanwhile, 5,200 British steelworkers face losing their jobs, according to the Trades Union Congress, after a series of plants announced job cuts in the face of cheaper imports, including from China. Cameron said Monday he would raise the issue of dumping of steel on the international market with Xi during their meetings.

“Trade and investment between our two nations is growing and our people-to-people links are strong,” Cameron said in the statement. “This visit will be an opportunity to review all of these things but also talk about how the U.K. and China can work together on global issues such as climate change and tackling poverty. It’s a real opportunity to deepen our relationship.”

The U.K. is striking an accommodative tone after Cameron’s May 2012 meeting with the Dalai Lama plunged the two countries into a two-year diplomatic freeze. China views the exiled Tibetan religious leader as a separatist and a symbol of Western efforts to weaken the country. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman at the time chastised the U.K. for “making mistakes again and again.”

“David Cameron paid a very high price in Sino-British relations and it is highly unlikely that the U.K. will ever be vocal over these issues again,” said Andres Rodriguez, a China historian at the University of Sydney. “Only an American president, a respectable foe in the eyes of the Chinese, can really afford to meet with the Dalai Lama and get away with it.”

Sensitivity to China’s politics may explain Cameron’s reluctance to take sides during the pro-democracy protests in Britain’s former colony of Hong Kong last year. One of his few forays into Hong Kong’s politics was to lodge a protest when a group of U.K. politicians was prevented from visiting about two weeks before the protests fizzled.

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