Friday, January 18, 2008

Wen Brown met Hu

Gordon Brown on his first visit to China as Prime Minister has covered a wide range of topics in talks with Chinese officials. But as many UK broadcasters are keen to point out, human rights is not one of them. Sky’s report referred to 2008 as the Year of China as the British PM was welcomed by Premier Wen. Sky News concentrated not so much on the discussions of business and trade but instead focused on China’s clampdown of pro-democracy campaigners.

In a bulletin shown today Sky talked to Guo Quan of the New Democratic Party who spoke of the need for political change in China. They also talked to a former party official, Bao Tong, who has been under house arrest since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. He told Sky News that there was no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press and no freedom to vote in China.

Mr Brown said he welcomed the decision to allow western journalists into China and to travel freely but said human rights would be in a dialogue later this month. He came with businessmen and academics, according to Sky News, and will focus on the environment and expanding trade. Human rights and politics were, according to Adam Boulton, speaking Live from Beijing, likely to take a back seat.

Channel Four News reported that Britain has lagged behind other European countries in securing contract with China. “We want Britain to be the number one country of choice for investment” Gordon Brown said. The report talked of the upcoming Olympic Games saying that it was the most contentious games since the Russian Olympics in 1980.

The BBC has had sporadic coverage of Gordon Brown’s China visit. They did however conduct an interview with the Prime Minister who told the BBC trade was not just “one way” and predicted economic growth from the bilateral ties [video]. He said there would be a 50% increase in trade. He added that he was relaxed about joint ownership. But he tempered this with a trade off of selling technology to the developing country. He said China had to make a step forward with regards to climate change and added that Premier Wen recognized the issues at hand.
CCTV-9’s coverage has so far been the most extensive of all the news broadcasters. China Today spent nearly twenty minutes on the Prime Ministerial visit. Mr Brown has so far met with Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo and Wen Jiabao. In discussions he has talked about stronger financial ties between the two countries.

Hu Jintao has said he appreciates “Britain’s adherence to the one China policy, its support of China’s efforts of peaceful reunification and its opposition of Taiwan’s bid for UN membership”. According to the extensive coverage, Gordon Brown said he welcomed Chinese companies to invest in the UK and hoped the two countries could cooperate more closely on regional and international issues and contribute to world peace.

After a welcoming ceremony in the Great Hall of the People on Friday morning, Premier Wen Jiabao sat down to discuss business issues with the British PM. “We have established a very good work and personal relationship”, Premier Wen said. “Through our joint efforts Sino-British has entered a new stage of comprehensive development” the Premier added. The two countries have signed 8 documents of trade and investment, education, energy and the environment, climate change and cooperation for the Olympics.

Prime Minister Brown talked about what he saw as the key issues. “I believe that by 2010, we will see 100 new Chinese companies investing in the United Kingdom, we will see 100 partnerships between our higher education institutes and universities and Chinese universities, we will double the number of firms listing on the London Stock Exchange and thousands of jobs will be created as a result of inward investment into Britain and trade between our two countries and we welcome the creation of the sovereign wealth fund and its potential for investing in our country” he said. Speaking at another meeting Gordon Brown said he saw China’s development “not as a threat but an opportunity”. He said China was a vast potential market for British companies.

The Prime Minister later visited Renmin University and watched a table tennis match. Whether the British leader is batting for Britain will be something that businesses at home will be looking at closely.

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