While the terracotta warriors from ancient China are still on display in London, receiving the admiration of millions of British visitors, the prime minister of the UK touched down in Beijing and then Shanghai to be greeted by leaders, entrepreneurs and citizens in the Middle Kingdom.
Gordon Brown's trip to China in mid-January was the first to the country since he took office and the first for a European state leader to China in 2008. But the significance of his visit lies far beyond that. Brown's trip enables China to better understand the China policy of No.10 Downing Street formulated last June and gives Britain an opportunity to meet China's leadership after the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China convened last October. During his stay in Beijing, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Brown reached a consensus on nine areas of mutual concern: finance and trade, youth exchange, science collaboration, public health care, the Olympic Games, climate change, hot-spot issues, reform of international institutions and the Doha talks. All these definitely promoted the China-Britain relationship, which both agreed has taken their "comprehensive strategic partnership" to a new high. Brown's visit will also have positive implications for China's trade relationship with the EU, given the rising trade frictions between China and the EU and the British prime minister's stance on free trade and anti-trade protectionism.
The diplomatic relationship between China and Britain dates back to 1950, when Britain was the first Western country to recognize the newborn People's Republic of China founded a year earlier. In the past, China has viewed bilateral ties with Britain as one of its most important international connections. After more than five decades, Beijing and London see their relationship as "better than ever, " flourishing in all aspects.
Visits and dialogues among top leaders of the two countries have been frequent. Communication, coordination and understanding on major international and regional issues have also been strengthened.
Their trade and investment volumes have seen a bountiful harvest. Statistics show that Britain is the EU's largest investor in China. Bilateral trade volume in 2007 is expected to reach $40 billion. When Brown was in Beijing, China and Britain signed eight deals worth $800 million and vowed to raise their trade volumes to $60 billion in 2010.
Cultural exchanges between the two countries have also made impressive headway. British universities and colleges have attracted more than 100,000 Chinese students; Chinese language and culture are well received by the British in 11 Confucius Institutes based in that country; and more cultural events have enabled the peoples of the two countries to understand each other better. From February until July, a large-scale event entitled "China Now" will be launched in Britain, which will show the true face of a modern and vibrant China.
When Beijing welcomes athletes and visitors from around the globe in August, Brown is again expected. That will be another perfect opportunity for the two kingdoms to learn from each other. The spirit of the Olympics will help to bring Beijing and London even closer. At that time, Brown, as well as his people from the UK, may find the charm of the Middle Kingdom is not only represented by the terracotta warriors and their horses, but also by its present and future.