The UK referendum, which will take place on 23 June, is an issue of interest not only for the UK itself and the European Union but also for other countries such as China. Taking into account that Sino-British relations have remarkably improved in recent years, a potential exit of the UK from the European Union causes particular concern in China. In order to explore what is at stake for Beijing, chinaandgreece.com conducted an interview with Dr. Yu Jie is China Foresight Project Manager and Dahrendorf Senior Research Associate at LSE IDEAS.*
Can the ‘new special partnership’ between the UK and China be affected by a ‘NO’ vote?
Absolutely, there is no doubt that a potential BREXIT would be a huge blow for the already tumbled Chinese economy and an imminent test to Beijing’s foreign policy. And China also hopes the UK could continue to support China on the Market Economy Status debate within the EU.
Isn’t the UK strong enough to maintain its political and economic power outside the EU and even increase ties with other countries such as China?
No. On economic front, China has been very clear on what it wants from the EU and the UK—a full market access is essential part of the EU-China relations and the foundation of the “Golden Era of UK-China Relations”. A potential Brexit would only diminish the hope of both the British and the Chinese in placing the UK as a spring board to the European market.
On political front, both China and the UK are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and are gravely affected by common transnational challenges such as global warming and Islamic extremism. Rather, it seeks more international cooperation with the UK, and wants to use this cooperation for advancing China’s very own global influence. The uncertainty over the UK’s continued membership of the EU is casting a shadow over the relationship. From the perspective of Beijing, only a partnership with London that is firmly rooted in the European Union can allow China to play a greater role in the international arena in this age of turbulence.
From a Chinese perspective, will the EU integration project be jeopardised following a potential Brexit?
Yes, it is a real danger here. And China would prefer a much stronger European Union to balance the US hegemony. A withdraw from a major European member states will put the integration project in a stagnation.
*Dr Yu Jie research focuses on Decision-making process of the Chinese Foreign Policy and broader issues on China-EU Relations. Prior to LSE, she was a management consultant at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, Gmbh and worked extensively with European conglomerates and Chinese State-owned enterprises.