Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The kowtowing to China continues: Now it´s the British who excel in Panda diplomacy

There seems to be no end in Europe to the kowtowing to China. The British government is the latest to join the servility choir. The deputy PM offered these words of praise when it was announced that China is going to give two pandas on loan to the Edinburgh Zoo:

Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, said it was a sign of the “strong relationship” between the UK and China.
"The kind gift of a loan of a breeding pair of giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yuangguang, is a sign that we can co-operate closely on a broad range of environmental and cultural issues, as well as commerce,” he said.
Liu Xiaoming, Chinese Ambassador to the UK, said it will unite the UK and China.

The Telegraph also gives us some background :

The rare animals are highly sought after and it has taken more than five years of political negotiations at the highest level to persuade the Chinese that the young pandas will be well looked after.

So, now we at least know what has been an important priority for British diplomacy for the laste five years. Certainly senior British diplomats involved in the panda negotiations can expect knighthoods for this major diplomatic breakthrough.

The Independent is, however, in its leading article trying to spoil the party:

The links between our countries are important and should be nurtured. Chinese students who come to the UK are a great mutual benefit, bringing in considerable income to our universities and creating personal links that should prove a tremendous economic asset in the years to come.
Yet, unusually, there is to be no press conference to coincide with this high-level Chinese visit. This cannot be put down to a lack of time, since the delegation does not leave until Wednesday. The word is that the Chinese did not want a conference for fear of Mr Li being asked awkward questions about human rights abuses in China, in particular the vindictive treatment of the Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Either way, the British people have been denied an opportunity to get a closer look at the man who is likely to be the next Chinese premier. This is regrettable. Press conferences are moments of democratic scrutiny. It might suit the Chinese to communicate with the public by releasing statements and eliminating the possibility of impertinent questions, but it should not suit our own Government.
The Coalition is determined to get close to China for economic reasons. It has taken a gamble that Britain will be able to export its way to recovery over the next five years. And with the European economy stuttering, China takes on a still more crucial role. There is nothing wrong with facilitating better relations between our nations and encouraging trade and technology transfers that can benefit both of our peoples (not to mention the planet). But there is a fine line between seeking economic links with an autocratic state like China and acting in a subservient manner. The Government needs to be extremely careful that, in its haste to increase trade with China, it does not cross that line.

The Independent´s warning is somewhat belated. The "fine line" already was crossed.

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