Chinese brand UK an ‘old declining empire’

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, waves as he and British Chancellor George Osborne leave after addressing the delegates of UK-China Financial Forum
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, waves as he and British Chancellor George Osborne leave after addressing the delegates of UK-China Financial Forum
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A Chinese newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party has marked Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to London with an editorial branding the UK an “old declining empire”.

The Global Times denounced reports in the UK press that China had demanded an audience with the Queen as a condition of Mr Li’s visit. The claims were a sign of British prejudice against the emerging economic giant, said the newspaper, widely seen as a mouthpiece of the Beijing government.

The paper also accused the British media of “hyping” concerns over China’s human rights record and said that bilateral relations should be guided by “realistic recognition of the two countries’ power”, with the UK no longer placed in the same rank as China.

“Perhaps Chinese people should forgive Britain’s confusing sentiment,” said the editorial. “A rising country should understand the embarrassment of an old declining empire and at times the eccentric acts it takes to hide such embarrassment.

“Diplomacy has to be based on realistic recognition of the two countries’ power. No matter for China or the UK, it will be tiring if they try to distort this reality.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman sought to shrug off the significance of the article, telling a Westminster media briefing: “I read in The Times of London Premier Li’s article when he said this was a great nation. That is the Prime Minister of China’s view.”

The diplomatic faux pas came as it was announced that the China Construction Bank (CCB) will set up the first clearing bank for the renminbi (RMB) currency outside Asia in London.

The appointment of CCB follows a memorandum of understanding between the Bank of England and the People’s Bank of China signed on March 31.

CCB is one of the big four banks in the world’s second biggest economy.

New era in China-UK relations: Business Thurday, Page 1.