Eddie Ashbee looks at Britain, China and the Belt & Road Initiative in a new article in the Asia-Europe Journal


A decade ago there was excited talk of a golden era in British-Chinese relations. President Xi Jinping was photographed propping up the bar in a rural English pub with Prime Minister David Cameron. Against this background, UK ministers spoke in very positive terms about the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), China’s gargantuan network of infrastructure projects spanning much of the globe. 
When the UK voted in 2016 to leave the European Union commentators thought that China might become even more important as a commercial partner. After all, Britain had only limited options. 
Nonetheless, despite the government’s turn to a “hard” Brexit in the years that followed and the political chaos that ensued, the UK’s romance with the BRI and China did not of course develop and Britain began, albeit erratically, to beat a retreat. Government statements regarding China and the BRI became ever more harsh. 
Why? US pressure and anxiety about the Trump White House is of course part of the answer. Nonetheless, British policy itself was always an unstable amalgam of ideas and intentions. As such, it was easy to reconfigure as east-west relations faced growing challenges. Association can easily become distancing. Policy, the article argues, is always a messy mix and the UK’s China policy was even messier and more mixed than is often the case. LINK

The page was last edited by: Department of International Economics, Government and Business // 04/02/2024