Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Reversal of Fortune

Cameron tries to use the charm offensive in Beijing... but is it enough?
Back in the 1800s, the British plundered China with opium, draining the country of its silver and taking along with it precious antiques, paintings and jewellery.

And now over 200 years later China is like a dog, smelling fear and terrorizing British Prime Minister David Cameron into submission.

He is currently in China with the largest ever British trade mission to the country, with deals worth $5.6 billion signed so far.

However Cameron has had to suffer some humiliation to get the business the UK desperately needs at the moment.

For example, the nationalist paper the Global Times had a commentary with the headline "China won't fall for Cameron's 'sincerity'", and it said Britain should realize that it is not a major power but "just an old European country apt for travel and study".

But that wasn't the worst of it.

Just days before his China trip Cameron set up his Sina Weibo account and already had more than 230,000 followers by Wednesday. He invited netizens to ask questions, saying he would try to rely during his visit.

One of the most popular questions? It was asked by Chinese think tank the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, which is headed by former vice-premier Zeng Peiyan, and members include top government officials and leading economists.

"When will Britain return the illegally plundered artefacts?" the organization asked, referring to the 23,000 items in the British Museum that it claims were stolen by the British Army that put down the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century.

For the Chinese, the ransacking of the Summer Palace in Beijing by foreigners has always been taught in schools as the ultimate humiliation of the country and the Communist Party constantly refers to this event to prove in recent years how the Party has immensely improved the country's economic and political power in the world.

How Cameron will worm his way out of that one will definitely reveal his political skills. His answer will indicate how much Cameron kowtows to Beijing...

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