It is a difficult time in the relationship between the UK and China, and that’s affected by the United States’ relationship with China, Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain’s 48 Group Club said in an interview.
The 48 Group was officially established in 1954 after the first western trade delegation to the newly formed the People’s Republic of China, the Icebreaker Mission, successfully signed a number of agreements in July 1953.
These Icebreakers became legendary. Jack Perry was the driving force and the inspiration behind this initiative and the decades of work that followed. Today, almost 70 years later, his son Stephen Perry is the group’s Chairman, a post he has now held for 26 years.
“It’s a difficult time in the relationship between the UK and China, and that’s affected by the United States’ relationship with China. A lot of very harsh things were said about China from the United States during that period of the Trump presidency. Some of that crude approach from America to China also came to the UK and it became very easy to whip up a public opinion. The media joined in and a lot of difficult, unpleasant things were said about China,” he said.
The remarks follow British media’s support of rioters, which follows the stance of the United States, thus worsening the bilateral relations.
As a person who has been at the forefront of developing the China-UK friendship over the past few decades, Perry said elements of shortsightedness are partly to blame for the hostility towards China.
“It is a great disappointment to the icebreakers. We spent a long number of years promoting a positive relationship with China. So we think there’s an element of shortsightedness from those people who try to whip up a frenzy against China. The issue is simple. China is rising and it’s different and it’s successful and people don’t feel comfortable. They feel fear of change, they feel the fear of something different coming along,” he said.
The 48 Group is now focused on helping the chairs of major companies, as well as leading political and academic figures, to better understand China and how to benefit from the enormous advances and growth that the country is still able to produce.
Perry is still optimistic about the UK and China’s future relationship and said the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could bring more cooperation opportunities.
“China’s focus is on health and digital, and other ways of urbanizing the BRI stretch. It’s a huge area, including the west of China right over almost to the Atlantic, but certainly to Western Europe. The building of agriculture, manufacturing and services operations in those areas is now happening. So what is now the case is that the big European companies and many of the big American companies are taking advantage of that new urbanization opportunity in BRI,” he said.
Perry called for global solidarity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and other pressing challenges, adding that it is the only way to tackle urgent issues.
“President Xi just said, why don’t we work together to build a safe world, to build prosperity, to deal with climate warning, to deal with health problems? And it’s very simple and it’s very true. It’s the right way to be. We should work together to deal with the problems. I think the experience of the pandemic has shown there’s only one way to deal with that, which is collectively as a world. And it’s disappointing that countries haven’t cooperated more,” he said.
Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News