Trade tops agenda as China's Wen visits UK

Chinese premier to focus on economic ties on second leg of European tour - as well as visiting Shakespeare's birthplace.

    Wen Jiabao, China's premier, has arrived in the UK for a visit focused on boosting economic ties, on the second leg of a three-nation tour in which Beijing is seeking a greater foothold in Europe.

    Reports suggest China and Britain are expected to announce more than $1.5bn worth of deals across many industries during Wen's visit.

    On Sunday he visited the Longbridge car factory, a plant now owned by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. A small group of Free Tibet protesters stage a demonstration outside the factory.

    Wen also toured the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of writer William Shakespeare, where watched a brief performance of one of his works.

    "I think it is fair to say that the Chinese people know the UK pretty well and I hope that more and more British
    people will know better about China," he told reporters after the performance.

    On Monday, he will take part in an annual UK-China Summit, which will also be attended by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, along with Foreign Minister William Hague and Finance Minister George Osborne.

    The two world powers, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, are also expected to discuss the ongoing uprisings across the Arab world, including the conflict in Libya.

    Wen's Europe trip focuses on offering reassurance to struggling economies which are important markets for Chinese goods.

    In Hungary on Saturday, Wen announced that China would be purchasing government bonds and extending a $1.4bn credit to the country.

    Wen arrived at Birmingham Airport in central England late on Saturday on a flight from Budapest, he will end his tour in Germany.

    Human rights controversies

    London considers China an important partner and will be seeking to boost both economic and political ties.

    But Wen's visit also takes place amid continuing international criticism of China over its human rights record.

    The Chinese premier is on a working tour across Europe

    China released two prominent political activists, Hu Jia and Ai WeiWei, in the days before Wen's trip, but analysts said the timing of their release was not necessarily linked to the visit.

    Previous visits by Chinese leaders to the UK have been clouded by protests over China's human rights record.

    When the Olympic flame was brought to London as part of a global tour to promote the 2008 Beijing Games, it was met by massive demonstrations by pro-Tibetan activists and rights campaigners.

    After coming to power last year, Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has made trade a priority, especially with emerging giants like China.

    Cameron travelled to China with Britain's largest-ever delegation of business leaders and ministers in November to take trade relations "to a new level" and a number of big trade deals were sealed.

    Cameron then urged China to introduce greater political and press freedoms, saying it would ensure social stability and economic growth. However human rights advocates accused the prime minister of being too soft in his political criticism as he prioritised trade ties.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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