The Chinese government called on Friday for Britain and the European Union to reach agreement as soon as possible after Britain voted to leave the bloc, as an influential state-run newspaper warned Britain is becoming a "small country".
The Chinese government called on Friday for Britain and the European Union to reach agreement as soon as possible after Britain voted to leave the bloc, as an influential state-run newspaper warned Britain is becoming a “small country”.
Britain’s vote to leave dealt the biggest blow to the European project of greater unity since World War Two and global financial markets plunged as results from Thursday’s referendum emerged.
Prior to the referendum, China had not directly stated its opinion, viewing the vote as an internal matter and saying only that it wanted to see a strong and stable Europe.
Diplomatic sources, however, said that was coded support for the now defeated “remain” camp, as the bloc, currently China’s largest trading partner, will lose around a sixth of its economic output.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China respected the choice of the British people.
“We hope Britain and the EU can reach a negotiated agreement at an early date. A prosperous and stable Europe is in all sides’ interests,” she told a daily news briefing.
When asked about the impact on business ties between China and Britain, Hua said: “Of course there will be an impact from Britain choosing to leave the EU”.
“The impact will be on all levels, not only on relations between China and Britain. As to what kind of impact there will be, I believe all sides will calmly and conscientiously assess this,” she said.
“China supports the European integration process and would like to see Europe playing a proactive role in international affairs. We have full confidence in the outlook for the development of China-EU ties,” Hua said.
The Global Times, a widely-read tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, was blunter in its assessment though.
“This referendum will probably be a landmark event that proves Britain is heading in the direction of being a small country with few people, writing itself off as hopeless and acting recklessly,” it said in an editorial on its website.
Though China and Britain have a history of disputes over human rights and the future of the former British colony of Hong Kong, export-reliant China values Britain as a strong advocate for free trade within the EU and the bloc as an important counterweight to the United States.
Relations between Britain and China have been warming over the past few years and economic links have multiplied in tandem in what both countries refer to as a “golden age” in ties.
“We are willing to work hard with Britain to continue to properly maintain and develop Sino-British ties,” Hua said.