Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister-designate, said his government would be very “pro-China”, in an interview with a Hong Kong-based Chinese-language broadcaster shortly before he was chosen to succeed Theresa May on Tuesday.
Speaking to Phoenix TV, Johnson backed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s infrastructure-based Belt and Road Initiative and said his government would maintain an open market for Chinese investors in Britain.
“We are very enthusiastic about the Belt and Road Initiative. We are very interested in what President Xi is doing [for the plan],” he said.
The Brexit campaigner also vowed to keep Britain as “the most open economy in Europe” for Chinese investments. “Don’t forget [we are] the most open international investment [destination], particularly [for] Chinese investment. We have Chinese companies coming in to do Hinkley, for instance, the big nuclear power plant.”
Johnson also stressed that Britain was the first Western country to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a move that angered its major ally, the United States.
Britain became a founder-member of the AIIB – the first Asia-based international bank to be independent from the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund – with a US$50 million contribution to its special project fund in 2015.
The interview did not touch on whether a Johnson government would restrict access to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. The British government delayed a decision on Monday on whether to restrict or ban Huawei over national security concerns.
Jeremy Wright, Britain’s culture secretary, said it would not be “sensible, helpful or responsible” to make a final decision about Huawei’s involvement in the country’s 5G network while the US position was still unclear, according to The Guardian newspaper.
British telecom firms, including Vodafone and BT, have already launched 5G services using some Huawei equipment in noncore parts of their networks where there is no security risk.
In the interview, Johnson said Britain welcomed Chinese students. “We are very lucky because we have coming to the UK not only lots of goods manufactured in China, we have 155,000 Chinese students in the country which is wonderful for us.
“They make a massive contribution to Britain and to our society. [There are] more Chinese students in London than any city in the world outside China,” he said.
“My daughter was in China not very long ago, learning Chinese,” he said, which is “very important, [and] very difficult”.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that China congratulated Johnson. She also said China treasured its relationship with Britain and hoped their bilateral relations could be developed in a stable manner.
Additional reporting by Catherine Wong
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